Members' Research Service By / October 2, 2023

The coup in Niger: Consequences for EU policies in the Sahel

On 26 July 2023, part of the Nigerien presidential guard removed President Mohamed Bazoum from office.

© olinchuk / Adobe Stock

Written by Bruno Bilquin et Eric Pichon.

Adding to a succession of coups in the Sahel region, the 26 July ousting of Niger’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum is already having major consequences in the region and for the credibility of the African Union and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). It also challenges the security architecture that the European Union (EU), France, other EU Member States, such as Germany and Italy, and the United States sought to build in the Sahel to fight terrorism. Jihadist attacks were already devastating before the coup, and have risen since. Russia‑ and Wagner-affiliated media continue to exploit and exacerbate anti-French feeling.

Although deemed risky by several analysts and third countries, ECOWAS is considering military intervention in Niger. The EU supports ECOWAS’ efforts to secure a return to constitutional order, but has not taken a position on possible military intervention. The EU has also suspended development and military cooperation with the country, previously considered a stronghold of EU and US counter-terrorism in the Sahel. In addition, the EU is setting up autonomous sanctions against the junta leaders in Niger, while continuing its humanitarian assistance.

Niger is one of the poorest countries on earth, with 40 % of its budget dependent on foreign aid, and one of the most severely hit by climate change and terrorism. The accumulated challenges highlight the need to rethink EU strategy in the Sahel region once more. During its September 2023 plenary meeting, the European Parliament called for a thorough revision of this strategy, while the situation in Niger and the broader Sahel remains volatile. This briefing analyses the situation in Niger up to 25 September 2023.

Read the complete briefing on ‘The coup in Niger: Consequences for EU policies in the Sahel‘ in the Think Tank pages of the European Parliament.

ECOWAS members' possible contribution to a military intervention in Niger
ECOWAS members’ possible contribution to a military intervention in Niger

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  • It is quite clear that the existing strategy for the area is not working in the way it was intended, and this would lead one to assume that a revised strategy is in order.  At the same time, it should be clear that when a revised strategy is being identified, that as part of the process, the team that is doing this should also be looking at two things:  1) the potential unintended consequences of the revised strategy, as well as, 2) the identification of potential future scenarios for the future of the area.  (1) By identifying the potential unintended consequences of a strategy before it is implemented, it is possible to determine if the benefits of a strategic direction are greater than the negative consequences (often unintended) which will surface as soon as the strategy is implemented.  (2) By identifying potential future scenarios, it is possible to be better prepared when and if a strategic response to a situation begins to lose effectiveness.  By looking at both the potential unintended consequences of a strategy and the potential scenarios that can impact an geographic/geopolitical area are evidence that the work put in to identify a strategy (initial strategy or revised strategy) is sound and will have a high possibility of actually working over time.

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