The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) has reservations about the date, timing, and form of the strike that it authorized to discipline the military junta in Niger, as a result of its coup that overthrew the elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.
Although nothing so far confirms the ability of ECOWAS to besiege the important information, which it believes that its circulation should be confined to limited local and international military and security agencies; Shooting in the faces of the Niamey putschists is still an option that faces multiple obstacles, and raises painful fears about its fate for the countries of the region, in which terror and death draw a map of pain that expands every morning.
Limited options for vague intervention
And if ECOWAS overcomes all the political and organizational obstacles that still stand in the way of this military intervention, its form, timing and objectives may also be practical obstacles to this “invasion”, whose media momentum varies continuously up and down.
Analysts and observers point out that the most prominent “scenarios” of this intervention are as follows:
Airdrops and the establishment of a military air bridge
This is to occupy the airport of the capital, Niamey, and the rest of the other airports, and then move towards the vital and basic institutions; Foremost among them: the presidential palace, the parliament, all the way to the liberation of Muhammad Bazoum, and the restoration of civil rule in the country.
However, this option will undoubtedly face obstacles. Most notably:
- Niger’s air defense system, which the country has strengthened over the past decade in the context of its war against terrorism and its cooperation with Western powers; Foremost among them: the United States and France.
- Shielding civilians: turning them into human shields that prevent ECOWAS from bombing these primary targets, by controlling the airport runways by turning them into a civilian protest arena, and mobilizing thousands of demonstrators in them, which will make bombing it completely impossible.
- In addition, the Republican Guard that overthrew the president and whose leader now leads the country, consisting of 700 personnel, will be the cornerstone and axis of resistance in this case, unlike a ground intervention.
Land invasion.. The flame coming across the borders
Any overland intervention would have to pass through Niger’s borders with Nigeria, Benin, or both, and move via a few highways to Niamey.
This option is the most difficult in practice, as the ECOWAS armies must cross the border exclusively from Nigeria or Benin, which requires them to travel hundreds of kilometers to reach the Nigerian capital, Niamey, as the Nigerian border is about 260 kilometers from Niamey, while the distance between the two capitals is Abuja. (Nigeria) and Niamey (Niger) to about 922 km.
The borders of Benin and its capital are similar distances from Niamey, which adds more obstacles to this option, and thus requires:
- Massive mobilization on the border: It is expected that the number of the ECOWAS army prepared to intervene in Niger will be in the thousands, if not tens of thousands, and the mobilization of this number with its men, equipment, and equipment, and in a short time and limited areas and from several countries, requires – without a doubt – great time and effort, and perhaps foreign assistance , though this is the easiest part of the job.
- A long-term advance, for an army of thousands of soldiers with their various means and capabilities, which may make this army vulnerable to multiple ambushes from armed groups, popular resistance brigades, and primarily from the Nigerien army.
- Also, this long movement will give the Nigerien army an opportunity to strengthen its defensive positions in the Nigerien capital, and around the main targets that are expected to be targeted by ECOWAS strikes, especially if the Nigerien army maintains its cohesion, or the foreign invasion prompts the hesitant forces to coalesce and confront the invaders, and the matter is confirmed in light of the campaign The nationalist propaganda carried out by the military council to mobilize popular support in its favor in the face of the “imminent aggression.”
Lightning ground operation
This option is to wage an operation with a ground force of special forces that is smaller in size, is faster to assemble, and is likely to focus on seizing key security and administrative sites, rescuing Bazoum from house arrest and restoring his government.
In addition to the previous options, it is possible – also – to talk about merging options, adopting lightning and sudden air strikes, or a lightning ground invasion with a quick and specific operation, but all the mentioned options will not be a picnic, but rather their implementation will be very costly, and their outcomes will likely be painful for all parties.
The expected resistance.. Is it popular brigades or human shields?
It is not expected that the coup plotters will receive the “Ecuasi invader” with roses. Rather, it can be said that the coup leaders have already begun – according to what appears from statements and movements – in developing defense plans and organizing resistance, which can take more than one face and across more than one side, and from the most prominent fronts expected resistance.
- A broad confrontation from the army: with its various battalions, especially the Elite Forces and the Presidential Guard, although it is not known – until now – the level of cohesion of the Nigerien army, in light of the wager of parties close to the ousted regime that several military units are still loyal to Bazoum, but they are avoiding igniting a war Within the army, in exchange for the other party’s bet on the unity of the army and its elements in the face of foreign military intervention.
- Popular support: through the popular brigades, which the coup leader called for to be formed under the slogan of volunteering to defend the country, which may later turn into fuel for armed militias, whose role may be decisive in further deterioration in Niger.
- Support for the putschists: in Mali and Burkina Faso, whose signs began through planes shown by Nigerien television, confirming that the two countries that are ruled by putschist generals will support their new counterpart, although some analysts expect their support to be more symbolic than practical and of a decisive nature, due to the difficulty of moving their armies towards Niger; Because it is preoccupied with its internal battles with armed groups, and because of the spread of elements of these groups in the border areas between the three countries.
Protect systems and deter officers’ ambitions
Despite strong expectations that the consequences of military intervention will be painful, the motives of ECOWAS and its allies for military intervention to save the civil order in Niger are also multiple and strong. Perhaps the most prominent of them:
- Standing up to the torrent of coups that swept West Africa, which toppled several regimes, some of which were strong and deeply linked to France and the United States of America, and because the tributaries of this coup torrent have multiplied with the Russian presence in the region, confronting it has become an obligation and cannot be delayed by the ECOWAS hawks. .
- Protecting the fragile democracy that enjoyed an African spring during the past two decades, before it turned into political stubble burned by the failures of regimes, and the obsession of African soldiers with coups and contradictory international bets.
- The personal enthusiasm of some ECOWAS leaders, particularly Nigerian President Paula Tinubu seeking to impose his influence as a strong leader in the Sahel region and West Africa, with the collapse of strong regimes in his vicinity. In the same regard, the role of Ghanaian President Nana Akufo Addo appears, whose country hosted the recent intensive meetings of the leaders of the ECOWAS armies. And his foreign minister goes to the fact that the success of the putschists in Niger means shaking stability in the entire region.
- Precedents of military intervention: to impose stability and the failure of military coups, as happened in Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia in 2003, and what happened in The Gambia 2017, where ECOWAS managed to force former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh to relinquish power after his defeat at the hands of current President Adama Barrow, and others. of interventions.
- The French wager on military intervention: with what this requires of military support and political and security incitement, especially since the success of the Africans in breaking the thorn of the military coup may be a future deterrent to any revolutionary thinking, and it will also restore – as well – the French presence in the region, to be a factor in the stability of fragile regimes , after its existence became the title of political and security turmoil. These considerations and aspirations are based on African endeavors to strengthen and strengthen the role of ECOWAS, to be an effective institution in managing the continent’s crises, especially after it became clear that the future of the region is almost shared between the Africans themselves, and those he describes as “new invaders” (the Russians) coming from the country of snow, with A significant decline in the traditional influence of the French and Americans, and the limited Chinese role so far.
- Military supremacy: ECOWAS is betting on its military strength and its alliance with France, which has military bases inside Niger.
In this context, it can be noted that the Nigerian army is the largest of these countries, with a population of 230,000 soldiers, in addition to tens of thousands of reserve forces, and owns 177 tanks and 144 military aircraft, and the volume of military spending is about $3.5 billion.
As for the Ivory Coast army, it is the second largest of the ECOWAS armies, and ranks 19th in Africa, with a total of 40,000 troops, while the Senegalese army ranks 30th in Africa, with a number of 17,000 forces, and has 27 military aircraft and about 1,100 military armored vehicles.
The Ghanaian army also includes 15,000 personnel, and owns 20 military aircraft, more than 1,656 military vehicles, and annual military spending amounts to $226 million.
On the other hand, the number of the Niger army is approximately 30,000, including about 11,000 deployed on the battlefield, which means a massive superiority in numbers and equipment for the ECOWAS armies over the Niger army, and its Malian and Burkinabe counterparts, who are also facing major internal crises, which may make their fight outside the borders. Borders are a solid nail in the coffin of their military regimes.
A wall in the face of bullets.. hesitation, fears and oppositions
Despite all these motives, and despite what resembles the last warning that ECOWAS sent to the Nigerien coup d’état, in light of the continuous chanting of war drums in the region, many obstacles still await military intervention. Most notably:
- The legal problem with regard to military intervention, which requires – according to the norms – a license from the African Union, and the approval of the Security Council after that, and without these approvals, the ECOWAS bullets will not have a frightening voice for the military council in Niamey. With the impossibility of obtaining approval from the Security Council for military intervention in Niger, ECOWAS has confirmed that it does not need the approval of the Council, which is expected that Russia will use the “veto” card to prevent its approval.
- The situation of division and hesitation: especially since ECOWAS member states have categorically rejected military intervention in Niger, and this is particularly the case with the countries of Mali and Burkina Faso that are led by putschists, in addition to the rejection of Algeria, which has a great influence in the African decision, and the reservations of Mauritania and Chad, in addition to the weakness of cohesion The internal conflict in Nigeria towards military intervention, and the division of the ECOWAS parliament towards the plan of violent settlement.
- Financing military intervention: which is expected to exceed $2.3 billion, according to the ideal proposal expected by ECOWAS when establishing its force specialized in preventing or stabilizing coups, and it is certain that securing this huge amount will be very difficult, especially since the region is unable to secure similar amounts for food security and health services. .
- Fears of a widening circle of flames: especially if the regimes of Mali and Burkina Faso decide to follow the path of military enthusiasm, and form a resistance alliance in the face of the “Ikwasi invasion” of Niger. In Niger, chaos may extend its arms to the rest of the region.
- Compromising the safety of the president: The life of the Nigerien president will be an important card for bargaining in the hands of the military council, as good treatment will be part of the council’s endeavor to improve his image in front of the world, while compromising or threatening his life will be an expected price for military intervention, which the Nigerian putschists are not expected to receive without resistance. .
- The length of the preparation period: the assembly and movement of armies, in addition to the approvals of the local parliaments in the participating countries, which is sufficient for the putschists to advance their own project, strengthen their positions, and even dismantle part of the state of African anger towards their coup, which was not the first. It will not be the last in the Sahel and West Africa.
- The political bets of the putschists: They also represent a potential barrier to foreign intervention, especially with their recent inclination to dialogue with ECOWAS, and the announcement by the coup leader, General Abd al-Rahman Tiani, of the plan to return to constitutional life, which includes a transitional period of three years, which is the same project implemented by the movements Another coup, which then turned into strong civil regimes.
And between these various possibilities that frame the coup crisis and the expected military intervention in Niamey, the citizens there live on the banks of hope for a breakthrough that pushes them forward to a deadly pain, which adds elements of collapse to the economic and security system of the poorest countries in Africa.
Source : Al Jazeera + agencies + American press + Websites