August 07, 2023
Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update Special Edition: Niger Coup—ECOWAS Invasion in Limbo
This is a special edition of the Critical Threats Project’s (CTP) Salafi-Jihadi Movement Update. These special editions provide in-depth analysis covering one CTP portfolio. CTP's Salafi-Jihadi Movement Team covers the Salafi-jihadi movement in Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, Iraq, North Africa, Pakistan, Syria, West Africa, and Yemen in our full Salafi-Jihadi Movement Weekly Update, which you can find here.
A regional intervention in Niger is unlikely in the next 72 hours, as the West African regional body buys itself time to reach a compromise and finalize military plans. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has not yet followed through on its threat to use military force to reinstitute the democratically elected government of Niger, after its one-week ultimatum expired on August 6.[i] ECOWAS and the Nigerien junta agreed to another round of talks on August 6, signaling the regional body is still seeking a negotiated solution.[ii] The junta quickly rebuffed previous efforts, but ECOWAS is expected to send a new delegation, reportedly including American emissaries.[iii] ECOWAS also announced that it would hold a second summit on Niger in Abuja, Nigeria, on August 10.[iv] This summit will provide ECOWAS leaders the chance to reassess all potential options and finalize invasion plans that the ECOWAS defense chiefs created during a summit from August 2 to 4.[v]
Domestic Nigerian pushback to a military intervention could derail an ECOWAS intervention. Local Islamic clerics and Nigerian senators in northern Nigeria warned against a military intervention before the August 6 deadline for Niger’s junta to step down.[vi] The Nigerian senate rejected the Nigerian president’s request to deploy troops to Niger on August 5.[vii] Pushback to the war in northern Nigeria is crucial because northern Nigeria has historically been a stronghold for the Nigerian president’s party, despite flagging support in recent years.[viii]
Nigeria withdrawing its support for military action would end the chances of a regional invasion due to Nigeria’s crucial importance to an intervention. Nigeria is the largest of all troop-contributing countries and will presumably compromise the bulk of an intervention force.[ix] A regional intervention would also have to be staged from Nigeria. Algeria and Chad are against a regional intervention, and Burkina Faso and Mali have said they would support the junta.[x]
CTP is tracking the following indicators of an ECOWAS intervention into Niger:
- Indicator: Troops amassing along the Nigerien border in Nigeria.
- Finding: CTP has not observed any troops from troop-contributing countries amassing along the Niger-Nigeria border.
- Indicator: Troop or asset redeployments in likely troop-contributing countries.
- Finding: Participating countries are expected to mobilize several thousand troops in the coming days in case of a military operation.[xi]
- Indicator: High-level discussions between the government and military leaders of participating countries and Western partner countries.
- Finding: ECOWAS heads of state will hold another extraordinary summit on Niger in Abuja, Nigeria, on August 10.[xii]
- Indicator: Widespread state-led evacuations of foreign nationals residing in Niger.
- Finding: On August 6, France updated its travel advisory alerts to warn against all travel to Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger.[xiii]
Figure 1. ECOWAS Threatens Intervention to Overturn Nigerien Coup: Indicators of a Regional Intervention, August 4–7, 2023
Source: Liam Karr.
CTP is tracking the following counter-indicators of an ECOWAS intervention into Niger:
- Counter-indicator: Likely troop-contributing countries removing the threat of military action.
- Finding: The Chadian defense minister said on August 5 that Chad would not militarily intervene in Niger.[xiv]
- Counter-indicator: Internal dissent in troop-contributing countries.
- Finding: The Nigerian senate rejected Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s troop-deployment request on August 5.[xv]
- Finding: Nigeria’s Northern Senators Forum cautioned on August 5 against the use of military force in Niger.[xvi]
- Finding: Islamic clerics in northern Nigeria warned on August 4 against using military force.[xvii]
- Counter-indicator: Continued mediation efforts
- Finding: ECOWAS and the junta agreed on August 6 to another round of negotiations.[xviii] ECOWAS is expected to send a new delegation, and American emissaries will likely help mediate negotiations.
Figure 2. ECOWAS Threatens Intervention to Overturn Nigerien Coup: Counter-Indicators of a Regional Intervention, August 4–7, 2023
Source: Liam Karr.
The Nigerien junta is advancing talks to deploy the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group as a regime security partner. A team of Wagner Group advisers and trainers met with junta officials in Niamey, Niger, on August 5.[xix] A prominent Wagner-linked milblogger also claimed on August 6 that Wagner will send a limited deployment to Niamey to “protect the capital.”[xx]
[iii] https://airinfoagadez dot com/2023/08/07/coup-detat-au-niger-vers-la-reprise-dun-nouveau-round-de-negociations
[vii] https://www.premiumtimesng dot com/news/614494-niger-coup-nigerian-senators-reject-tinubus-request-for-troops-deployment.html
[viii] https://www.premiumtimesng dot com/news/587338-presidential-election-why-tinubu-lost-northern-nigerian-states-to-atiku.html
[x] https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/algeria-opposes-military-intervention-niger-tv-citing-president-2023-08-05; https://www.reuters.com/article/niger-security-chad-idAFL8N39L6MW; https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20230801-burkina-faso-and-mali-say-intervention-in-niger-would-be-declaration-of-war
[xv] https://www.premiumtimesng dot com/news/614494-niger-coup-nigerian-senators-reject-tinubus-request-for-troops-deployment.html
[xvi] https://www.premiumtimesng dot com/news/top-news/614541-northern-senators-caution-against-military-action-in-niger-republic.html
[xviii] https://airinfoagadez dot com/2023/08/07/coup-detat-au-niger-vers-la-reprise-dun-nouveau-round-de-negociations