The flag of Niger pinned on the map.
The flag of Niger pinned on the map. Credit: MarkRubens

The threat of conflict in Niger: What do we know?

On Wednesday 26 July, Niger’s military removed the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum.

A few days later, on 29 July, General Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself leader of the West African country sparking condemnation from a range of democratic allied countries and the West African economic bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the African Union calling the intervention an “attempted coup d’état”. The military has dissolved all former government institutions in Niger and there is continued uncertainty surrounding the future of the country.

ECOWAS imposed a deadline on the military junta in Niger to reinstate President Bazoum by Sunday 7 August which has been ignored. There are now fears that Niger will face conflict as ECOWAS may decide to authorise a military intervention to restore democracy to the country.

The possibility of conflict and prolonged instability threatens Niger’s civilian population and increases the risk of humanitarian implications for the country. According to the UN, 4.3 million people already need humanitarian support in Niger as more than 40% of the country’s 25 million population lives in extreme poverty. Conflict will also lead to increased internal displacement in the country and a greater risk of Nigerien people fleeing to neighbouring countries in the Sahel, which already face their own internal humanitarian challenges.

How is the FCDO and the international community responding to the situation?

Following the coup, the UK, France, the EU and the US have started to stop ODA support into the country and ECOWAS has imposed economic and travel sanctions on Niger.

On 30 July, the UK’s minister for development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell said:

The UK wholly supports the immediate political and economic measures announced by ECOWAS and will suspend long-term development assistance to Niger. We will however continue to provide critical humanitarian assistance to the people of Niger. The UK is a committed partner of Niger’s democratically elected government and calls for President Bazoum to be immediately reinstated to restore constitutional order.

The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) is advising British nationals in Niger to register their presence so they can share important updates, including any options to leave.

While the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken said, “As we have made clear since the outset of this situation, the provision of US assistance to the government of Niger depends on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order” – adding that the US government would review this decision as the situation evolves.

What are INGOs doing?

As tensions rise, some governments have started to evacuate citizens and embassy staff. Some INGOs have started to evacuate some of their expat staff due to the security concerns. Many INGOs and their local partners, continue to provide vital humanitarian assistance to the most marginalised in the country.

Care International, Concern Worldwide, Mercy Corps, Oxfam, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children and others have published a statement warning that further instability and sanctions could exacerbate humanitarian needs of the most marginalised including women and children, stating, “The combination of sanctions and conflict with the existing vulnerabilities in Niger could have devastating effects on the lives of over 4.4 million people in the country who are already in need of humanitarian assistance.”

In a recent interview with CNN, Paolo Cernuschi, The International Rescue Committee’s Country Director in Niger said: “The concern is that any further instability will undermine the capacity of organisations like IRC to provide critical support that is necessary. Some of the impacts we can predict are limitations on access to basic supplies, cash shortages, price increases – these can have devastating effects on already vulnerable populations.”

The UN has confirmed that humanitarian assistance, development, and peace programs continue in the country stating that they “remain fully committed and engaged to supporting the vulnerable populations of Niger affected by a combination of climate, economic and security shocks, in a context of very high humanitarian and development needs.”

Please refer to Relief Web for the latest humanitarian updates as the situation unfolds.