- THREATS OF SANCTIONS FROM ECOWAS
- FRANCE AND US
- Threats of financial and economic sanctions attracts a counter statement from MALI, BURKINA FASO, GUINEA
- Military Junta remains resolute
- Nigeria begins to implement sanctions by cutting off electricity supply to Niger
- Evacuation begins by France, Germany, US etc.
- Military Junta defy ECOWAS deadline and refuses to reinstate ousted President Bazoum.
UPDATE ON MILITARY TAKEOVER IN NIGER
Only a week after the coup d’état in Niger, the spot price of uranium has seen an uptick from $56.15 to $56.25 a pound.
Following the military take-over of power from the Bazoum-led administration on July 26, concerns have been raised about the supply of uranium since the EU and France especially largely depend on uranium from Niger to fuel their nuclear reactors and for medical purposes. In 2022, data from Euratom indicates that Niger was EU’s second largest supplier of Uranium. Niger alone supplied EU with 2,975 tU (representing 25.4%). The landlocked country was followed by Canada which supplied 2,578 tU (22.0%), and Russia which supplied 1,980 tU (16.9%) that same year. Kazakhstan was the highest supplier with 3,145 tU (representing 26.8%). Other countries together contributed 5.2%.
The seizure of power by the Junta has so far attracted sanctions and threats of war from regional and international blocs, although not unexpected.
First, the ECOWAS regional bloc being led by Bola Tinubu has threatened to forcefully deploy soldiers to get rid of the Junta and restore constitutional order if Bazoum’s presidency is not restored by August 6. ECOWAS has also imposed severe economic sanctions on Niger and ordered members countries to close land and air borders the poor country. Niger depends on Nigeria for about 70% of its power supply but Nigeria has since cut the supply as part of the sanctions. The president of Nigeria and leader of ECOWAS, Bola Tinubu, wrote to seek his Senate’s approval to deploy his soldiers to restore democracy in Niger should the coup-makers be recalcitrant.
The Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) further terminated a planned 30 billion CFA-Franc (equivalent to 51 million US dollars) bond issuance by Niger. Again, Benin has indicated that there may be a delay in the execution of a PetroChina-backed export pipeline project which is expected to link Niger’s Agadem oilfield to the port of Cotonou in Benin. The Benin government however maintained that border closures imposed by ECOWAS members will not affect construction work on the pipeline.
The World Bank has also announced a suspension of disbursements to the country. The US and France have also decided to do same and this may endanger landlocked Niger over hundreds of millions of dollars in aid.
In response, leader of the coup, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, has declared that he would not bow to any pressure to reinstate ousted president Bazoum and warned all blocs to refrain from the country’s internal affairs. He went on to criticize the sanctions as illegal and inhumane and called on his compatriots to get ready to defend their nation. Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and Mali, who are also Niger’s neighbours and currently under military junta, have cautioned ECOWAS that any military intervention in Niger is tantamount to war in all the three countries.
France, Italy and Germany have begun evacuating their citizens from Niger. The US has also ordered a partial evacuation of its embassy. Senegal and Ghana are currently exploring possibilities of evacuating its citizens.
Currently, Niger has closed its airspace as the coup-makers have defied ECOWAS’ deadline amidst military intervention threats.
BRIEF BACKGROUND (REMOTE FACTORS)
It will be interesting give a brief background in order to get people informed about some of the remote causes leading to military take-over of power in Niger.
Niger has a vibrant bourgeois democracy, yet it is saddled with dreadful internal politics. In the last elections for instance, 30 presidential candidates contested which led to Mohammed Bazoum elected. The ruling PNDS-Tarayya (Bazoum’s party) was accused of unilaterally handpicking and selecting members of the Independent National Commission (CENI), the body in charge of organizing elections in Niger. Concerns were raised by the opposition but all fell on the deaf ears of the PNDS government.
The MODENFA/FA opposition party therefore boycotted the elections and so the situation heightened the internal political violence in the country. Again, the Constitutional Court at that time barred Hama Amadou from running in the 2020 elections. There were series of protests by civil society activists against the political tension which were being created by PNDS administration. Some of the activists were arrested and imprisoned for holding political views.
Again, there is a major problem of insurgency and insecurity which has rendered large portions of Niger ungovernable. There is the presence of four major insurgency groups at work in Niger. The first is the Jihadist group which continues to threaten security in the country by escalating violent attacks especially in the west and south-west regions of Niger. Boko Haram is also very active in Diffa and Bosso regions. Islamic State (IS) continues to create tensions in the southeast. Al-Qaeda and the ISIL are active in the west. In the northern part of Niger too, a coalition of al-Qaeda loyalists known as Jama’at Nasr al-Islam wal Muslimin (JNIM) and the IS are reported to have about two thousand fighters.
In order to be able to deal with this issue of Jihadism and other insurgencies in the country, the Bazoum government prefers to use non-state armed groups to complement the national army. Again, there is intolerable responses to all forms of dissenting public opinion, protests and criticism of government to the extent that sometimes internet users who post anti-government opinions on social media pages are prosecuted. That is why the soldiers who participated in the coup have complained that one of their reasons is due to deteriorating insecurity in Niger.
In addition, Niger is a periphery dependent economy and it is highly unstable. It has a multi-party republic modelled after that of France. Executive power is exercised by both the President who serves as the head of state and the Prime Minister who serves as head of government. Legislative authority is also vested in both the National Assembly and the Government. The Judiciary exercises authority over constitutional issues. Although, the Judiciary ought to be independent of both the Executive and Legislature, it is usually accused of corruption and vulnerability to Executive meddling. In short, none of the Arms of Government, not even the Judiciary, is trusted enough by the citizens. They are accused of corruption, being used by the ruling class to the detriment of trade unionists, political activists and ordinary citizens.
Moreso, Niger has experienced terrible economic situation for a long time and it is usually reported as one of the poorest countries in the world, despite its rich resources. This is one of the remote factors leading to the coup. There is is the high rate of unemployment as well as illiteracy. As at 2018, the rate of literacy in a vast and populated country like Niger was 35%. Even though, basic education is supposed to be free and compulsory, most of the children lack this access because the schools are not available, and also the roads leading some available schools are not motorable. Some of the consequences of this is low employment opportunities for the young people, high rate of child labour in the mines and child trafficking. The most dangerous effect is the fact that insurgency groups radicalize and recruit the disgruntled youth for violence.
Apart from the internal remote factors explained above, there is a very important geopolitical factor at play. Niger is endowed with vast uranium needed by countries like France, China and the US for their nuclear weapons. The country is also rich in coal, tin, iron ore, gold and crude oil deposits. There is therefore no doubt that there is massive foreign powerful states’ interest in Niger, leading to geopolitical struggle over the country.
Some of the countries have established military bases, not necessary in the interest of the ordinary people of Niger, but rather to secure and protect their own governments’ interests and control over the rich mineral reserves, especially uranium, in Niger.
France alone has about 1500 troops across the military bases. Again, the Airlit, Tamou and Tagora uranium ore reserves are mined by Societe des Mines de l’Air (SOMAIR). SOMAIR is partly owned by a French multinational company ORANO which controls about 63.4% interest in the reserves.
France continues to explain that the reason for deploying troops in Niger is to help combat insecurity in the Sahel region. However, after many years, there is persistence of insecurity, tensions and violence. This has led to lack of development and deteriorating economic situation in the country. Failure to curtail the attacks has created a growing anti-French sentiment among people not only in Niger but also in Mali and Burkina who are all neighbours.
With the remote factors rife for political instability, ousted President Bazoum’s intention to change leadership of the presidential guard was a major immediate cause of the coup in Niger. In other words, there have been reports that the coup leader was about to be sacked. Meanwhile, Bazoum has frequently been accused of being autocratic and intolerant of dissenting political views.