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Deescalating military tension in Niger Republic

According to an African proverb, “Do not beat the drums of war unless you are ready to fight.” In recent times, the West African region…

According to an African proverb, “Do not beat the drums of war unless you are ready to fight.” In recent times, the West African region has been gripped by tension due to the coup d’état that took place in our friendly neighbouring country, Niger Republic. The democratically elected president of that country, Mohamed Bazoum, was overthrown by the military, mainly comprised of members of the Presidential Guard, led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani.

This unfortunate incident has sparked reactions from regional bodies, with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposing sanctions and threatening the use of force if President Bazoum is not reinstated within a week.

As an advocate of democracy, firmly believing in the government of the people, by the people; the situation in Niger Republic deeply concerns me. History has taught us that military governments that come to power through coups tend to hold on to power and resist relinquishing control voluntarily. Such a coup undermines democracy and hampers progress, pushing Niger Republic backward in its democratic journey. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that we strive for a diplomatic resolution to this crisis and prevent any further military escalation.

Looking beyond the current crisis, it is essential to highlight the historical ties between northern Nigeria and Niger Republic. During my upbringing in Zaria, I had the privilege of experiencing the presence of Nigerien families in our compound. One particular family that frequented our home was headed by a man known as Baban Salah, whose son, Saleh, was just a few years older than me. Whenever they visited during the Chirani (dry season labour), we shared the same living space, fostering good memories and nurturing harmonious relationships. Like most northerners, they value friendship, and they are promise keepers. It is the same situation in most northern cities. We are simply one people separated by imaginary colonial boundaries.

In the aftermath of the coup, events have unfolded rapidly, revealing that a considerable number of Nigeriens support the coup plotters, viewing them as saviours who will liberate their country from foreign dominance and exploitation of its resources.

While President Bazoum’s government shares similar objectives, the military junta believes his approach is too soft and slow. It is essential to respect the Nigerien people’s choice in determining their country’s path. We may disagree in their support to the military junta that overthrew the elected government, but at the end, it is their country and their choice.

However, threats of military force from ECOWAS to bring back President Bazoum are not the solution. We firmly reject any military intervention in our friendly neighbour’s internal affairs. Instead, we advocate a peaceful means to resolve the crisis, regardless of the time it might take.

It is crucial for Nigeria to prevent any crisis from erupting in Niger Republic because of the potential consequences it may bring to our country. As neighbours, we share a close geographical and cultural bond with Niger and any instability in their country could lead to a significant influx of displaced refugees into Nigeria.

Given our current economic hardship and limited resources, coping with a humanitarian catastrophe of such magnitude would pose immense challenges. By maintaining peace and stability in Niger Republic, we safeguard the wellbeing of both countries, fostering a sense of regional cooperation and mutual support.

It is in Nigeria’s best interest to act proactively to prevent any crisis from escalating in our neighbouring country, ensuring the preservation of peace, security and prosperity in the West African region.

To de-escalate military tension in Niger Republic, we must explore peaceful avenues for resolution, such as engaging in intensive diplomatic dialogue with all stakeholders, appointing neutral mediators for reconciliation efforts, involving the African Union (AU) for support. In addition, economic and political incentives can encourage a peaceful transition. Addressing the concerns of the coup plotters and engaging constructively with Niger’s leadership can pave the way for a stable democratic government.

Citizen engagement is equally vital in the process of rebuilding democratic institutions. Empowering civil society organisations and involving citizens in open discussions and debates on the country’s future will foster a sense of ownership and shared responsibility.

In this pursuit, we must be cautious not to involve external western countries, such as France, the United Kingdom, Russia and the United States of America in African conflicts. Their involvement tends to complicate matters and may not serve the best interests of African countries. It will only add multiple levels of complexity to the crisis. Instead, we must rely on regional solutions and collaborative efforts to resolve the crisis in Niger Republic. By doing so, we can demonstrate that Africa has the capacity to address its challenges and work towards a peaceful, united and prosperous continent.

In conclusion, the situation in Niger Republic demands a concerted effort to find a peaceful resolution. As friends and neighbours, it is our responsibility to advocate peace and stability in the region. Let us reject any form of military kinetics and pursue diplomatic means to ensure a democratic and prosperous future for the people of Niger Republic. Through dialogue, mediation and reconciliation, we can de-escalate military tension and uphold the values of peace and democracy in West Africa.

Dr Shafi’i Hamidu wrote from Minna, Niger State.

 

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