The transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali have warned that any military intervention in Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against their countries.
The governments issued a joint statement on Friday, expressing their solidarity with the people of Niger and denouncing the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The sanctions were imposed after Niger’s military junta refused to hand over power to civilians after a coup in February.
On Sunday, ECOWAS imposed sanctions and threatened force on Niger’s coup leaders if they did not reinstate ousted President Mohammed Bazoum within a week.
The sanctions include a travel ban and asset freeze on the coup leaders and their associates. ECOWAS also said that it would close its borders with Niger and suspend all financial flows to the country.
The sanctions came as several thousand demonstrators gathered in Niger’s capital, Niamey, to demand the departure of French military troops from the country. They also want an end to other foreign interference, after last week’s coup that has brought a military junta to power.
The demonstrators burned French flags and stoned the former colonial power’s mission, drawing tear gas from police.
The 15-nation ECOWAS bloc’s emergency meeting on Niger called for constitutional order to be restored, warning of reprisals if not. “Such measures may include the use of force,” their communique said, adding that defence officials would meet immediately to that effect.
The Mali-Burkina Faso joint statement warned that any military intervention in Niger would be “a grave violation of international law” and would “have disastrous consequences for the entire region.”
The governments of Burkina Faso and Mali said that they would withdraw from ECOWAS if the sanctions against Niger were not lifted. They also said that they would take “measures of self-defence” in support of the Nigerien armed forces and people.
The statement said that the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali were “deeply outraged and surprised” by the imbalance between the “speed and adventurous attitude” of some West African political leaders who are eager to use armed force to restore constitutional order in a sovereign country, and the “inaction, indifference and passive complicity” of these organizations and these political leaders in helping States and victim peoples for a decade and abandoned to their fate.
The statement concluded by calling on “the vibrant forces” to be ready and mobilized “in order to lend a helping hand to the Nigerien people, in these dark hours of pan-Africanism.”
Niger: Anti-French Sentiment on the Rise in Sahel Region
Anti-French sentiment in the Sahel region is a complex issue with a long history. It is rooted in a number of factors, including France’s colonial legacy, its perceived role in supporting authoritarian regimes, and its military intervention in the region.
France was a colonial power in the Sahel region for over a century. During this time, it exploited the region’s resources and suppressed its people. This legacy of colonialism has left a deep resentment among many Sahelians.
In recent years, France has been accused of supporting authoritarian regimes in the Sahel. For example, it has been accused of supporting the former Malian president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, who was overthrown in a coup in 2020. This has further alienated many Sahelians, who see France as an obstacle to democracy and good governance.
In 2013, France intervened militarily in Mali to help the government fight against the terrorist group, Ansar Dine. However, the intervention has been criticized for being too heavy-handed and for not doing enough to address the root causes of the conflict. This has led to some Sahelians seeing France as an occupying force.
The combination of these factors has led to a growing anti-French sentiment in the Sahel region. This sentiment has been expressed in a number of ways, including protests, attacks on French troops, and calls for France to withdraw from the region.
In 2022, the French government announced that it would be withdrawing its troops from Mali. However, it remains to be seen whether this will reduce anti-French sentiment in the region.