The recent coup d’état in Niger is leading to speculation on whether a looming proxy war between the West and Russia in central Africa is inevitable, according to a number of reports. Growing hostilities leading to a collective resentment towards the West and its waning regional influence has been accompanied by support for the Russian regime among Nigeriens.
But it isn’t limited to those in Niger, but also its neighbours.
Niger’s coup leader neighbouring Burkina Faso now enjoys the backing of Mali’s military Junta, who recently made a public declaration of support for the takeover, warning against any foreign intervention which will be seen as an unprovoked act of war against both nations.
‘’I warn that any military intervention against Niger will be considered a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,’’ announced Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, State Minister for Territorial Administration and Decentralization, Mali junta.
Both countries are currently led by military leaders who seized power through unsanctioned and unlawful means. This public statement in support of the coup in Niger is likely a chance for the military governors of Mali to garner regional support for their regime which continues to lack legitimacy as a rightful and legal administration. Despite Col. Abdoulaye Maiga labelling his government as a transitory one, and publicly committing to restoring democracy in Mali, little progress or effort has gone towards implementation.
A recent ECOWAS summit – countries in West Africa who make up a largely economic union – culminated by providing Niger with a 7-day deadline to free detained President Mohamed Barzoum and restore civilian rule, if these terms are not met, military intervention and other measures may be considered. Sanctions have already been implemented; however, these measures are more likely to affect the already impoverished Nigerien people than its military usurpers.
The Western powers remain opposed to the regime change in Mali, and have declared the same stance on the regime change in Niger. Furthermore, the British government has announced it will be halting all financial support and assistance to Niger in the wake of the coup, while U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken welcomed ECOWAS’s decision, making the following statement:
‘’We join ECOWAS and regional leaders in calling for the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family and the restoration of all state functions to the legitimate, democratically-elected government.’’ Said Blinken.
Yet a waning of Western influence in the region makes it so such statements land on deaf ears in increasingly anti-Western Niger. The attack on the French embassy is just one example of the rise of of anti-Western sentiment. In recent years, other African countries who were previously Western colonies have also taken public anti-Western stances through a myriad of political measures and statements. This trajectory is likely to affect the foreign policy of these nations to look East for allies, namely towards Russia. Russian support has already been observed by international onlookers as the white red and blue flag is now waved proudly by ordinary citizens through the streets of Niger and other African cities.