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Coup in Niger: Implications and Impact

Ruchita Beri is Consultant at the Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses, New Delhi. Click here for detailed profile.
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  • August 22, 2023

    On 26 July 2023, in a coup d’etat, General Abdourrahmane Tchiani, the head of Niger’s presidential guard, deposed the democratically elected President Mohammad Bazoum and declared himself as the leader of the military junta. This action led the 15-member regional economic grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to impose economic sanctions and threaten military intervention if the democratic government is not restored in the country.

    After a meeting with mediators from ECOWAS on 19 August 2023, the Niger coup leader promised to return the country to democratic rule in three years. The ECOWAS however has rejected the three-year time frame and are pushing for the earliest return of civilian rule in the country.

    The regional efforts to reverse the coup are supported by the United States and France that have deep economic and military links with the country. Earlier, France, the European Union and the US declared economic sanctions and stopped development assistance. The unconstitutional change of government in Niger has deep implications for the region and for the country’s external partners.

    Regional Implications

    Niger is a land-locked country in West Africa that borders Mali to the West, Chad to the East, Algeria and Libya to the North and Burkina Faso, Benin and Nigeria to the South. The coup in the country has set alarm bells ringing across the region. West Africa has been rocked by multiple coups in the last three years. These include coups in Mali (August 2020, May 2021), Guinea (September 2021) and Burkina Faso (January and September 2022). In most cases, the democratically elected representatives were thrown out of power due to the growing dissatisfaction with the government in particular, due to corruption, economic malaise, and inability to stem the tide of violence from extremists and jihadists.

    Regional leaders are worried since they recognise that the coup in Niger is an existential challenge not only for political and economic stability of Niger but for the entire West African region. They are aware that most countries in the region are facing political and economic problems and are quite vulnerable towards any form of internal instability. The regional leaders fear that failure to take a firm stand may trigger a contagion of unconstitutional changes in the region.

    The failure to reverse the coup may also hamper regional counter-terrorism efforts. In recent years, the region bordering Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali has become the epicenter of violence by terror groups affiliated to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. As a result, lately, Niger had become the hub of counter-terrorism activities led by the West, particularly France and the US. The internal instability caused by the military coup may provide an opportunity to the terrorists to enhance their activities in the region.

    More importantly, call for military intervention by ECOWAS has led to division amongst the member states with Burkina Faso and Mali supporting Niger’s military junta. Given that Niger borders seven countries, any conflict may increase regional instability. While Nigeria is leading the call for military intervention as the head of ECOWAS, it faces an additional challenge. Niger borders the northern states of Nigeria, with long-standing ethnic and cultural ties. Any conflict with Niger will open another front for the country that has been battling the Boko Haram militancy internally for years.

    International Implications

    Niger’s international partners are pushing for restoration of democracy in the country. Immediately after the coup, they imposed economic sanctions. France stopped its development assistance of US$ 130 million.1 Similarly, the EU and the US stopped development assistance of US$ 544 million and US$ 100 million, respectively.2 The immediate response from its international partners is driven by the impact of the coup on their energy security, their war against terrorism in the region and fear of increase in Russian influence in the country.

    The importance of the Niger stems from the fact that it is the world’s seventh largest producer of uranium, a key mineral needed for the development of nuclear energy. Niger’s military junta’s ban on uranium exports to France has sent shock waves to the European country.3  Europe is dependent on Niger for the region’s nuclear energy production. Niger is the second largest supplier of uranium to the EU and contributes 25 per cent of uranium supplies to the country.4 France in particular, generates around 70 per cent of the country’s electricity through nuclear energy. Niger is the third largest supplier of Uranium to France and accounts for 19 per cent of its uranium imports.5 France, the country’s former colonial ruler, has deep economic ties with the country. The French nuclear firm Oreno owns and operates a uranium mine in the country.

    The Niger coup also threatens the Trans Saharan Gas Pipeline Project connecting Nigeria’s natural gas fields through Niger and Algeria to Europe.6 In June 2023, Nigeria, Niger and Algeria agreed to accelerate work on the pipeline. The push for this pipeline came after Russia disrupted gas supplies to Europe. In 2022, during the Ukraine conflict, Russia cut off the gas supplies to Europe through the Nord stream pipeline. However, the Niger military junta does not seem to be keen towards continuing any connection with Europe, leaving the future implementation of this vital gas pipeline project in a limbo.

    Apart from energy security, Niger is an important partner of the Western countries in countering extremism and terrorism in the region. Before the coup, both the US and France had close military cooperation with Niger. The move by the military junta to end military cooperation with France endangers decade-long counter-terrorism efforts in the region. Niger was the only remaining ally of France in the troubled Sahel region that includes Niger, Burkina Faso, Mauritania, Chad and Mali. France has around 1,500 troops in Niger stationed at the Naimey Air base in the country. The US has one of the largest drone bases in the region and has stationed around 1,000 troops in the country. In the last few years, the rise of military governments in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso led to the end of Operation Barkhane, a French counter-terrorism mission in the region and the exit of French troops from these countries.

    Niger’s former international partners, France and the US also fear that the coup may increase Russian influence in the region. While Russia has not supported the Niger coup, it has warned that any military action by the ECOWAS in the region may lead to “protracted confrontation” in the region.7 The Niger junta has also approached the Russian private military company, Wagner group, for support. It is important to note that support for Russia is also visible amongst Nigerians. In several pro-military junta demonstrations in Niger, the demonstrators have raised Russian flag and chanted “down with France”. Niger’s military junta seems to be following the example of its neighbours. In 2021, after a coup, Mali asked French troops to leave and invited Wagner. Similarly, soon after the departure of French troops from Burkina Faso, the country’s military leader Ibrahim Tarore called Russia a “strategic ally”. 8


    The coup in Niger has increased instability in the West Africa region. While the Niger military junta’s latest announcement of return to democratic rule in three years is a positive step, the possibility of a military intervention is still alive. The coup has deep regional and international implications and may lead to increase in major power contestation in the region. A diplomatic resolution may help in stemming the tide towards further authoritarianism and insecurity in the region.

    Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.