After Us the Conflagration

In the campaign against putschists in Niger, Berlin, Paris and the EU support ECOWAS, which threatens military invasion. Niger is the Bundeswehr’s last deployment location in the Sahel.

NIAMEY/PARIS/BERLIN (Own report) – Western states, including Germany, are backing the West African alliance ECOWAS in its campaign against putschists in Niger. On Sunday, ECOWAS imposed comprehensive sanctions on Niger and threatened military intervention in the country if the putschists do not back down by the end of the week. This threat of violence is being made despite the fact that Niger has been terrorized by Jihadis for years and would ultimately be at risk of descending into bloody chaos if ECOWAS troops were to engage in a war against the Nigerien armed forces. Observers speculate that Paris could allow ECOWAS to use its air base in Niamey. The population in Niger, rallying in the largest demonstrations seen in a long time, is protesting against a possible ECOWAS military intervention. The German government sees the putsch as a threat to the Bundeswehr’s last Sahel deployment location and, by supporting ECOWAS, accepts that a military intervention will plunge the Sahel into an unprecedented conflagration.

“Military Intervention in Preparation”

On Sunday, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS (French: CEDEAO) had imposed harsh sanctions on Niger. This was to be expected, because ECOWAS had already imposed severe punitive measures on Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso after their military forces had seized power. For the first time, however, ECOWAS is openly threatening to use “force,” i.e., go to war against Niger. French media are already talking openly about a “ground intervention,” possibly with air support.[1] As it stands, mainly – or exclusively – troops from Nigeria at the southern border, would enter Niger on behalf of ECOWAS. According to reports, Nigeria’s Chief of Staff Christopher Musa announced on Monday, “we are ready.” Fueling fears that Nigerian forces may actually carry out an invasion of the neighboring country on behalf of ECOWAS is the fact that France has begun evacuating its citizens from Niger yesterday (Tuesday). According to French parliamentarian Bruno Fuchs, this shows “that a military intervention is in preparation.”[2]

Behind the Scenes

The European and other Western states are currently operating behind the scenes. They do not want “to appear to be on center stage,” even though they are maintaining regular contact to overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum and his entourage, according to the French daily Le Monde.[3] Of course they are not idly standing by. Statements by the putschists have not been officially refuted, according to which, French authorities had obtained written political and military authorization at a meeting with the General Staff of the Nigerien National Guard, to restore Bazoum to office – by any means necessary. France’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna has simply declared, Paris does not plan a major military intervention in Niger. “Priority” is on the security of French citizens. Observers point to the fact that Paris has its own air force base at the airport in the capital Niamey, which, in fact, serves as the “neuralgic epicenter” of its military operations throughout West Africa. It could place its base at the disposal of the invading ECOWAS troops – a possible decisive advantage, a “trump card,” in a possible war against the Nigerien putschists.[4]

Declaration of War on the Sahel

This is threatening an unprecedented escalation in Niger and possibly in the Sahel as a whole. Niger, like Mali and Burkina Faso, is already the scene of a fierce war against primarily jihadi militias, which has claimed numerous lives. It is one of the poorest countries in the world. In Niamey and other Nigerien cities thousands have taken to the streets, demonstrating against foreign military intervention, with journalists calling these the largest protest action in a long time.[5] An invasion under the banner of ECOWAS threatens to set the entire country ablaze – and not only that. Guinea adamantly rejects ECOWAS’ sanctions and its threats of invasion and calls for these to be immediately rescinded. Mali and Burkina Faso have also announced that an invasion would be considered a “declaration of war” also on them, and would immediately withdraw from ECOWAS and begin taking “measures of legitimate self-defense in support of the military and population of Niger.”[6] This means that the Sahel stands at the brink of an unprecedented conflagration. It should be taken into account that Nigeria is also plagued by the terrorism of the Boko Haram militia, in the region bordering Niger. The Nigerian military attacking Nigerien troops would directly benefit jihadi militias.

With Berlin’s Support

In spite of it all, ECOWAS is receiving powerful support from the West. Already on Monday, the Elysée Palace announced that France supports “all regional initiatives” aimed at “restoring the constitutional order.”[7] Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock declared yesterday that she “welcomes” the “efforts being made by the African Union and ECOWAS to reach a political solution.”[8] EU Foreign Affairs Commissioner Josep Borrell confirmed that “the European Union supports all measures ECOWAS has taken in reaction to the putsch,” and wants to “swiftly and decisively promote them.”[9] Tuesday, France offered to take also German citizens on its evacuation flights. Germany’s foreign ministry is advising Germans in Niger to accept the offer, an indication that Berlin is also expecting a further– perhaps even military – escalation. The Chair of the German Parliamentary Defense Committee, Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann, pointed to the fact that numerous German soldiers are also stationed in Niger. “Should the situation on the ground ... escalate,” Strack-Zimmermann declared in reference to the threat of an ECOWAS intervention, “it may be necessary to evacuate the Bundeswehr immediately.”[10]

The Last Bastion

Niger is not only the first country that ECOWAS is threatening as a reaction to a putsch, it is also a country that currently has a very special strategic significance for European countries as well as for the USA. When Mali and Burkina Faso each expelled French troops, and Mali also the United Nations’ MINUSMA troops following their putsches, European countries applied strong pressure as a reaction, but left it at that. They were able to retreat to Niger. Now the putsch in Niger is placing the entire European military combat presence in the Sahel (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger) as well as the US base for drone warfare in the north of the country near Agadez into jeopardy. If the Western military must now leave Niger – as the population has been demanding with growing intensity since quite some time ( reported [11]) – this would represent a substantial defeat, particularly given the fact that Russian soldiers are stationed in Mali and that Burkina Faso is politically cooperating with Moscow. With this being the perspective, the Western states – including Germany – are supporting ECOWAS’ threats to intervene, which threaten to ignite an unprecedented conflagration.


[1] Morgane Le Cam: Coup d’Etat au Niger : la Communauté des Etats de l’Afrique de l’Ouest hausse le ton et joue son avenir. 01.08.2023.

[2], [3] Emma Larbi, Pierre Lepidi, Marjorie Cessac, Nathalie Guibert: Au Niger, l’opération d’évacuation des ressortissants français a commencé. 01.08.2023.

[4] Jeanne Le Bihan: Coup d’État au Niger : la Cedeao peut-elle (vraiment) intervenir militairement ? 01.08.2023.

[5] Claire Gatinois, Morgane Le Cam: Coup d’Etat au Niger : la junte militaire agite le spectre d’un ennemi extérieur pour souder la population derrière elle. 31.07.2023.

[6] Coup d’Etat au Niger : une intervention militaire serait « une déclaration de guerre », menacent le Burkina Faso et le Mali. 01.08.2023.

[7] Claire Gatinois, Morgane Le Cam: Coup d’Etat au Niger : la junte militaire agite le spectre d’un ennemi extérieur pour souder la population derrière elle. 31.07.2023.

[8] Außenministerin Baerbock und ein Sprecher des Auswärtigen Amts zu den jüngsten Entwicklungen in Niger. Auswärtiges Amt, Pressemitteilung 01.08.2023.

[9] Othmara Glas, David Klaubert: Russische Flaggen in Niger. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 01.08.2023.

[10] Fabian Busch: Marie-Agnes Strack-Zimmermann: „Sollte die Sahelzone unkontrollierbar werden, hätte das auch Auswirkungen auf Europa”. 31.07.2023.

[11] See also “A Reliable Partner”.