ECOWAS vs Niger Republic: Favorable for Russia, Challenging for the West

In the aftermath of the military coup that dethroned the democratically elected president of Niger Republic, a wave of supporters flooded the French embassy in the capital, delivering a resounding message to their former colonial authority and Western partners.

As soldiers held President Mohamed Bazoum captive at the presidential palace in Niamey, tense scenes played out down the road. Nigeriens in support of the coup, some waving Russian flags, passionately chanted slogans like “long live Putin” and “down with France.” These sentiments escalated, and they forcefully removed the plaque from the embassy.

Following the display, French President Emmanuel Macron issued a warning of retaliation against any assaults on French citizens and denounced the coup as, “completely illegitimate and profoundly dangerous for the Nigeriens, Niger and the whole region”

Protests in support of Niger Republic's military coup have frequently displayed flags of russia
The protests in support of Niger Republic’s military coup have frequently displayed flags of Russia

The United States and other Western nations also denounced the coup, while ECOWAS warned of military intervention unless they reinstated Bazoum. In a written statement, US President Joe Biden called for the immediate release of Bazoum saying Washington “stands with the people of Niger.”

The ousting of Bazoum marked the latest in a series of recent coups sweeping across Africa. Over the past three years, military juntas have taken control of five countries in western and central Africa—each of them former French colonies.

However, these coups have unfolded within the broader context of a struggle between the West and Russia for influence in Africa. Experts suggest that the growing wave of discontent in former French colonies has created an opportunity for Moscow to make its presence known.

Russia’s Perspective: Seizing an Opportunity

While no evidence ties Russia to Niger Republic’s rebellion, the Kremlin adeptly capitalized on prevailing anti-Western sentiments in the region. According to Daniel Bwala, a media aide to the 2023 Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, an essential point emerges. Bwala highlighted that ECOWAS involving Niger Republic in a proxy war could lead to Russia and NATO reaping benefits.

Read Also: Niger Republic: Why Nigerians Must Not Support Armed Invasion

Expounding further, Bwala underscored the concerning possibility of Russia and other foreign nations exploiting Africa’s precious oil and natural resources through invasion. Voicing his apprehension, the constitutional lawyer questioned, “This proxy war that ECOWAS wants to go into will be for the benefit of Russia and NATO. Totally avoidable; Why allow the West to use African soil as the battleground for the scramble for Africa’s natural resources?”

Additionally, Remi Adekoya, an associate lecturer in politics at the University of York in the UK, stated that the surge of anti-French sentiment in Africa’s ex-colonies provides Russia with a chance to expand its influence throughout the continent.

Prigozhin, the founder of Wagner, attributed the coup in Niger Republic to the lingering effects of colonialism. He asserted that his group possessed the capability to address situations similar to the ongoing events in Niamey, even though there is no current evidence that his offer has been embraced.

According to a message shared on social media, Prigozhin mentioned “The former colonizers are trying to keep the people of African countries in check. In order to keep them in check, the former colonizers are filling these countries with terrorists and various bandit formations. Thus creating a colossal security crisis.”

The Scramble For Resources

While the coup played out in Niger Republic last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin simultaneously embarked on a charm offensive directed at African leaders during a summit in St. Petersburg. During the event, he criticized Western colonialism and enticed attendees with gestures such as providing debt relief for Somalia, presenting a mobile medical laboratory for Uganda, and even offering a presidential helicopter to the leader of Zimbabwe.

Bwala believes the end-goal for Russia includes the resources in Africa; “At the moment, they buy our resources because under the international convention on war and peace they have no right to invade any of Africa’s territory without invitation; but during the war, they can, based on the various agreements they have with ECOWAS member states which led to the presence of their military bases in various African countries in the first place.

“Soon as the conflict start, they take over oil fields and ancillaries where they would pretend to recover the money for either their supplies of arms or active war assistance.

“Once the conflicts start they would ensure the war in Africa escalates and take hydra-headed dimensions. Once the war starts there would be no development, active trade activities and above all peace. I humbly beg President Tinubu to avoid the militarization of diplomacy in order to avoid predictable consequences.”

Unlike the Nigeriens’ receptiveness towards Russia, the military has declined assistance from Western nations, including the US and France. The lack of reception towards France may stem from the belief popular amongst younger generation Nigeriens that France is responsible for the prevailing poverty levels in their country.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *