Algeria in diplomatic drive with Ecowas to avoid military action in Niger

By Zeenat Hansrod with RFI
Algeria   Nigeria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs
AUG 24, 2023 LISTEN
© Nigeria's Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Algeria has engaged in a diplomatic tour of three Ecowas countries in a bid to broker a diplomatic solution to resolve the crises across the Sahel, and avoid military intervention in Niger.

Algeria's foreign Affairs minister, Ahmed Attaf, is currently in Nigeria on the first leg of a three-state tour that will also take him to Benin and Ghana.

On Wednesday, Attaf held talks with his Nigerian counterpart, Yusuf Maitama Tuggar on the situation in Niger and Ecowas proposals to restore stability to the country

All three member-states within the Economic Community of West African States are pushing for a military solution to reinstate Niger's elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown in a coup on 26 July.

West African bloc says undisclosed 'D-Day' set for possible Niger intervention

Although Algeria is not a member of Ecowas, it shares a 1,000-kilometre long land border with Niger and President Abdelmadjid Tebboune maintains that a military operation would result in a "a direct threat" to his country.

“There will be no solution without us [Algeria]. We are the first people affected,” President Tebboune said.

He fears that a forceful intervention might have grave consequences such as igniting “terrorism and other criminal activities which already plague the region.”

Algeria also shares borders with Libya and Mali, both in the throes of years-long conflicts that had refugees crossing over into the country.

One coup too many

Ecowas accepts that the door for diplomacy with Niger's junta remains open, however it has firmly declared it is not prepared to engage in drawn-out talks that “lead nowhere.”

According to Ecowas commissioner for peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, “We are not going to engage in long, drawn out haggling with these military officers. We went down that route in Mali, in Burkina Faso and elsewhere, and we are getting nowhere.”

“If we allow it then we are going to have a domino effect in the region and we are determined to stop it,” Musah added.

For Ecowas heads of state, the coup in Niger is “one coup too many.”

Niger is the fourth country to face a military coup since 2020, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.

The juntas in Burkina Faso and Mali have said that any military intervention in neighbouring Niger would be considered as a "declaration of war" against their countries respectively.

Miltary ready

According to Ecowas, 11 of its 15 member-states are prepared to contribute to a joint military force, except those under military rule – Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – and Cape Verde.

“We are ready to go anytime the order is given,” Fatau told the media on 18 August.

He was in Ghana where West African military chiefs met last week to coordinate a possible armed intervention in Niger.

The so-called "stand-by force", includes soldiers from Nigeria, Senegal, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Ghana.

Countries further from Niger will station their troops in the territories of allies neighbouring Niger.

Meanwhile, the African Union says it favours the “restoration of constitutional order through diplomatic means”.

But it will be in difficult position to condemn the decision of the regional bloc.

In a communiqué on 22 August, it “requested the AU Commission to undertake an assessment of the economic, social and security implications of deploying a Standby Force in Niger and report back to Council”.

Friction with France

Earlier this week, Algerian public radio announced that Algiers had refused permission for French military aircraft to fly over Algerian airspace.

The French army general staff has denied the report that Paris had asked Algiers for authorisation to fly over its territory, with a view to a possible military intervention in Niger.

France still has about 1,500 troops in Niger that were stationed there before last month's coup.

France, European countries and the United States have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into providing equipment and training for Niger's military and – in the case of France – have conducted joint operations.

Since the July coup, all military operations have been suspended.