Niger closes airspace to potential invaders

7 August 2023
Niger Junta

Niger's junta leaders have taken the decisive step of temporarily closing the nation's airspace, citing concerns over potential military incursion from France and its allies.

Ongoing monitoring by the flight tracking platform Flightradar24 indicates a current absence of airborne activity within Niger's skies. The regional coalition of West African nations, known as Ecowas, had previously issued a cautionary notice about the potential application of force should the fallen President Mohamed Bazoum not be reinstated by 23:00 GMT on Sunday. A spokesperson for the junta has emphasised the preparedness of Niger's armed forces to safeguard the nation. Following the detention of Mr. Bazoum on July 26th, General Abdourahmane Tchiani, commander of the presidential guard, took up leadership. The change in government has sparked international censure, including from entities such as France, the European Union, the United Nations, and the United States. A sense of apprehension has rippled into northern Nigeria as Niger's deadline loomed.

In a televised address on Sunday, the junta representative conveyed intelligence suggesting the potential involvement of an external power plotting an attack on Niger. After a consultative session in Nigeria, Ecowas military leaders revealed the formulation of a comprehensive strategy for a possible use of force. Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security, outlined the detailed groundwork for any prospective intervention, underscoring the preference for diplomatic resolution while extending the opportunity for the junta to reconsider their actions. Ecowas had set a deadline a week prior, urging the junta to relinquish control by local midnight, which has now passed.

Ecowas, an economic community comprising 15 West African countries including Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Ghana, continues to monitor the situation. Supporters of the junta assembled defiantly at a Niamey stadium, and with the neighboring nations of Burkina Faso and Mali issuing strong warnings against external military intervention, the junta shows no inclination to return power to the fallen ex president. Burkina Faso and Mali, both Ecowas members, remain under suspension due to military governance. Niger's status as a significant uranium producer, critical for nuclear energy, and its role as an ally of the west in military operations in Western Africa during President Bazoum's tenure underscore the complexity of the current situation.

The coup in Niger's context is multi-faceted, driven by concerns over security and the economic landscape. The path ahead remains uncertain, with the potential of a shift in alliances toward Russia and the prospect of French and US installations being closed. As neighbouring countries contemplate acting on orders from the Euro-American alliance, with the possibility of employing force to restore order, Niger's trajectory stands at a critical crossroads.