Niger Coup: Sanctions loom as West African leaders meet in Abuja

West African leaders are convening an “extraordinary summit” in Abuja, Nigeria, to address the recent military coup in Niger, which has raised concerns over the region’s stability.

Recently, General Abdourahamane Tiani, head of the powerful presidential guard, declared himself the country’s leader, detaining Mohamed Bazoum, the elected president in military custody for four days.

The situation has prompted reactions from the international community, with France and the European Union already suspending security cooperation and financial aid to Niger. Now, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is considering whether to impose sanctions on Niger, one of its member nations.

Furthermore, Bola Tinubu, President of Nigeria and ECOWAS chairman, said “the organisation is committed to defending democracy and ensuring democratic governance in the region.” ECOWAS, having the authority to impose sanctions, is expected to take decisive actions during the summit.

Similarly, Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State has also expressed his deep concern over the situation in Niger and offered support for President Tinubu’s efforts to restore constitutional order in the country.

The coup in Niger follows similar incidents in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which have experienced military coups in recent years due to ongoing jihadist insurgencies and political instability.

Read also: A timeline of coup in West Africa and its implications for democracy in the region

General Tiani cited deteriorating security conditions, jihadist violence, corruption, and economic challenges as reasons for the coup. However, the international community has swiftly condemned the coup and begun implementing punitive measures against Niger.

France, with a significant military presence of 1,500 soldiers in Niger, has suspended development aid and budgetary support to the nation, while the European Union has suspended security cooperation and budgetary aid and refused to recognise the coup leaders. Also, the African Union has given the military a two-week deadline to restore “constitutional authority” and condemned the coup strongly.

Niger, despite its significant uranium deposits, faces ongoing challenges as one of the world’s poorest countries, ranking low on the UN’s Human Development Index. Since gaining independence in 1960, the country has experienced multiple coups and political upheavals.