Coups are bad and there is no justification whatsoever for it. In the view of Plato, soldiers have no business governing a country. They must remain guardians and allow the Philosopher King alone to govern. But many times, there are no Philosopher Kings in Africa and so, coups happen. When they occur, they require a very serious thinking process and analysis to handle them. Sometimes, a military response may the way to deal with them. At other times, pure diplomacy may be required.
The Niger situation is quite different from the Gambian situation and in my honest opinion, would require a more tactful diplomacy than military response. In Gambia, the international community was ad idem that Yahaya Jammeh had to leave and there were virtually no foreign military bases that had special interests in his country. His soldiers were no longer loyal to him and hence he had to flee when ECOWAS troops moved in on him.
The situation in Niger is however quite different. The military junta there are ready to fight. Russia has an interest in providing para-military services to ward off terrorist in Niger for a fee. They are in full support of the current military junta.
The Americans want their company Chevron to pass gaspipe lines from Nigeria through Niger to Algeria for European consumption, a
move to diversify European dependence on Russia gas. In fact, because of this plan ‘Nordstrom’ or ‘Nordstream’ pipeline from Russia to Europe was blownup in the ocean through sabotage with the Americans being prime suspects. So for Russia, they will support the Niger Junta especially when the latter even made it clear that they’re halting exportation of uranium to France.
France has an interest in the Uranium of Niger and is willing to fight in defense of the ousted leader. So, France and America would be against the military Junta while Russia will fight on the side of the junta. Burkina Faso has also declared her intentions to fight any country or group that attacks Niger militarily and Nigeria may be unable to provide troops as its parliament has voted against a military response to what is happening in Niger.
How will ECOWAS troops fare? We must be careful not to be caught in a crossfire of a potential proxy war, where soldiers may be innocently massacred. Given that there is no unanimity on the use of military force in handling the crisis in Niger even among ECOWAS countries, we must interrogate the resolve to use soldiers rather than diplomacy critically and with some trepidation.
I know that some African leaders who have governed poorly, are pushing for the deployment of military force to handle the Niger crisis, as a way of ensuring that no one dreams about coups. Yes no one must dream about coups, but the best antidote to coups isn’t the use of military force, it is good governance. African leaders who are scared of military coups now have an excellent opportunity to govern well in addressing basic human needs of the ordinary people as a sure way to make the idea of coups unpopular.
If all the countries that are teaming up to ally with Niger decide to do so, ECOWAS forces may not succeed, and when there is massacre of forces of African decent, it potentially can infuriate soldiers to react against their governments that deployed their colleagues.
We must never support any coup anywhere in the world. But when they occur, we must strategize appropriately to deal with them. Not all coups can be responded to with military force. Some, especially in the Niger case would require a more nuanced and tactful diplomacy.
PAV Ansah Street
Suro Nipa House
Behind Old Post Office