Reports have emerged that Niger’s junta issued a chilling warning to a senior U.S. diplomat, indicating their readiness to execute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum should neighboring countries attempt any military intervention to reinstate his leadership. This concerning revelation comes from two Western officials who shared this information with The Associated Press.The disclosure comes on the heels of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announcing the mobilization of a “standby force” to reestablish democratic governance in Niger after the expiration of a deadline for the reinstatement of Bazoum passed without action.
This grave threat to the deposed president significantly heightens the stakes for both ECOWAS and the junta, the latter of which has exhibited a willingness to escalate its actions since seizing power on July 26.Niger, the last bastion of stability in the Sahel region just south of the vast Sahara Desert, had been a pivotal partner for Western nations in countering the surge of jihadi violence linked to extremist groups like al-Qaida and the Islamic State. These violent activities have resulted in substantial casualties and forced the displacement of millions. The international community is now faced with the daunting task of finding a peaceful resolution to Niger’s leadership crisis.
According to sources, representatives of the junta conveyed the threat against Bazoum to U.S. Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland during her recent visit to the nation. A Western military official, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the situation, corroborated this account. A U.S. official, also requesting anonymity, confirmed the incident, citing lack of authorization to speak with media.
This distressing situation has intensified tensions on both sides, potentially driving them closer to initiating discussions. Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department expert in African affairs and current director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory firm, emphasized the escalating nature of the junta’s actions and cautioned about the potential for further extreme measures.The leadership of the West African bloc recently convened to deliberate on their subsequent steps. Following these discussions, ECOWAS commission president Omar Alieu Touray conveyed their commitment to deploying a standby force to address the crisis. He assured that the necessary financing and preparations had been undertaken. Touray assigned blame to the junta for any adverse impact resulting from imposed sanctions on Niger and indicated the bloc’s intent to take further coordinated actions.