Niger has taken a significant step by closing its airspace due to the perceived “threat of intervention.” The junta in power has decided to defy the ultimatum issued by the West African bloc ECOWAS, demanding the reinstatement of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
ECOWAS had set a deadline for the generals to relinquish power, but they chose not to comply, resulting in a potential military action looming over the country.
The crisis unfolded after Bazoum was overthrown on July 26 by members of his own guard.
As the deadline set by ECOWAS approached midnight on Sunday, the junta released a statement announcing the closure of Niger’s airspace for all aircraft until further notice.
They warned that any attempt to violate the airspace would be met with an “energetic and immediate response.”
In response to the situation, thousands of coup supporters gathered in the capital, Niamey, to express their support for the ruling National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).
The CNSP also revealed that two Central African countries had made “pre-deployment in preparation for intervention,” without naming them, and warned that any involved state would be considered co-belligerent.
ECOWAS military chiefs of staff have already devised a plan for a possible intervention, emphasizing the importance of diplomatic efforts.
However, they have prepared for the possibility of deploying force if necessary.
The situation has garnered international attention, with former colonial power France expressing its support for ECOWAS’ actions.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara also called on the coup leaders to step down to protect peace and security in the sub-region.
The rising anti-French sentiment in the region and the involvement of Russian interests through the Wagner mercenary group have added complexity to the situation.
Foreign aid that Niger heavily relies on could be at risk if President Bazoum is not reinstated.