The lessons that Niger and the International Community can learn

Eric Muhia
July 2023: A pivotal moment in Niger’s history as factions within the armed forces orchestrate a coup d’état, leading to the suspension of the constitution. Source:

History of Military Diplomacy in Niger

The history of military diplomacy in Niger has recently been shaped by the 2023 coup d’état and the subsequent threat of military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States to restore constitutional order. This situation has brought to light complex legal issues surrounding anticipatory consent to military intervention, through treaty-based mechanisms like the 1999 Lomé Protocol. The coup in Niger is part of a series of political upheavals in West Africa and the Sahel region since 2020, leading to concerns about a “coup belt” emerging in the area. The response to the coup has been multipronged, with ECOWAS imposing sanctions and threatening military intervention if constitutional order is not restored. This has led to diplomatic tensions within ECOWAS and mixed reactions from neighboring countries under military rule. The legal analysis of the union’s threat raises questions about the violation of international law, specifically article 2(4) of the UN Charter, which prohibits the threat or use of force.

Military Diplomacy in Niger

General Abdourahmane Tiani, who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrives to meet with ministers in Niamey, Niger July 28, 2023. REUTERS/Balima Boureima
General Abdourahmane Tiani, who was declared as the new head of state of Niger by leaders of a coup, arrives to meet with ministers in Niamey, Niger July 28, 2023.
Source: REUTERS/Balima Boureima

The implementation of military diplomacy in Niger following the 2023 coup d’état has had significant implications for the local population and regional stability.

The legal underpinnings of military intervention post-coup demand meticulous scrutiny, particularly concerning anticipatory consent and intervention by invitation. These legal nuances shape the legitimacy of external involvement and underscore the delicate balance between sovereignty and international intervention. Amidst the regional dynamics at play, the role of entities like ECOWAS looms large, holding the potential to either stabilize or further destabilize the region. The actions and decisions of regional organizations in response to the crisis carry profound implications for the collective security and stability of neighboring nations. Conversely, if its actions or decisions are perceived as heavy-handed or military intervention leads to extended conflict or unrest, it could exacerbate regional instability, creating ripple effects that impact neighboring nations. The actions taken by the regional organization in response to the crisis in Niger have had far-reaching implications for collective security in West Africa. Instability in one country can have spillover effects, fueling regional conflicts, terrorism, and migration challenges.

The international community’s response to the crisis serves as a barometer of global solidarity and commitment to upholding democratic norms. From appeals for assistance from the ousted government to nuanced statements from foreign governments, the diplomatic discourse surrounding Niger reverberates on the international stage. A recent example of this is the urgent call from a senior UN humanitarian official for increased support for vulnerable communities in Niger, highlighting the critical need for immediate assistance due to limited funding and access challenges that have endangered lives. This plea underscores the pressing humanitarian aspect of the crisis.

The Impact of Military Diplomacy in Niger

The implementation of military diplomacy in Niger has had a significant impact on the local population and the region’s stability.

Local Population: The means and mechanisms of remote warfare have proliferated to various state actors, who combine their ‘light footprint‘ to saturate distant conflict zones and sovereign nations. This saturation can lead to a heavy collective military footprint, impacting the local population. Moreover, military responses to the security crisis need to include more conflict-and climate-sensitive approaches to win the hearts and minds of the population.

Regional Stability: The Western-trained army’s seizure of power in , following similar cases in Mali and Burkina Faso, has won the support of large sections of the population. However, an external military intervention risks uncontrollable, devastating, and destabilizing consequences for the country and the entire region. The international community must prioritize diplomatic solutions and support peaceful efforts to restore stability.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS said on 4 August 2023 its military chiefs had agreed, in the Nigerian capital Abudja, a plan for a possible intervention in Niger, after it failed to secure a return to civilian rule there following the 26 July coup.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS deliberation on 4th August, 2023 in the Nigerian capital Abuja, after it failed to secure a return to civilian rule in Niger following the 26th July coup. Source :EURACTIV

In addition, the U.S. has provided over $500 million in military assistance to Niger since 2012, including training and equipping the Nigerien armed forces to fight terrorism. However, this security-focused approach has contributed to instability rather than resolving the root causes of the region’s problems. The heavy military presence and use of force against militants have fueled resentment among the local population and increased militant recruitment, as over 70% of Africans who joined extremist groups did so in retaliation. Furthermore, the coup in Niger in July 2023 was a significant setback for democracy and stability in the region. The coup leaders have resisted diplomatic overtures from the U.S. and other international actors, raising concerns about a potential military intervention . This could further destabilize the region and embolden militant groups. The coup was driven by internal political rivalries, ethnic tensions, and anti-colonial sentiments rather than solely U.S. influence. However, the influx of U.S. military aid and presence has likely exacerbated the power imbalance between the military and other parts of the government, contributing to the conditions that enabled the coup.

Lessons that Niger and the international community can learn from other instances of military diplomacy include:

  1. Respect for democratic norms and constitutional order: The crisis in Niger highlights the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law. The international community’s strong condemnation of the unconstitutional change of government underscores the need to maintain constitutional order and respect the people’s will.
  2. Clarity in legal frameworks: The situation in Niger has raised complex legal questions around the concept of anticipatory consent to military intervention through treaty-based mechanisms like the Lomé Protocol. This highlights the need for greater clarity and consensus in the international legal framework governing the use of force.
  3. Balancing sovereignty and intervention: The mixed reactions from neighboring countries like Mali and Burkina Faso, which expressed opposition to ECOWAS’s potential military intervention, demonstrate the delicate balance between respecting state sovereignty and the responsibility to protect democratic institutions.
  4. Regional cooperation and unity: The divergent stances within the broader West African region regarding the appropriate response to the crisis in Niger underscore the importance of fostering regional cooperation and unity in addressing political instability.
  5. Humanitarian considerations: The call from a senior UN humanitarian official for increased support for vulnerable communities in Niger emphasizes the need to prioritize the well-being of the local population amidst political upheaval.

Comprehensive Security Strategy for Niger

In the face of Niger’s complex security challenges, a multifaceted approach is essential. This includes legal and institutional reforms that leverage frameworks like the Lomé Protocol to ensure military interventions uphold constitutional legitimacy. Strengthening regional and international institutions is crucial for preventing and responding to political crises while adhering to democratic principles and the rule of law. Investing in conflict prevention and early warning systems can mitigate political instability risks, fostering stability and the well-being of Niger’s population.

Simultaneously, regional security cooperation must be bolstered. Enhanced intelligence sharing among West African states is vital to counter regional instability and crisis proliferation. Capacity-building and training for Niger’s security forces will improve internal stability maintenance and contribute to regional strength by curbing extremism and violence. Promoting good governance and the rule of law addresses instability’s underlying causes, paving the way for a resilient society.

Lastly, countering violent extremism requires comprehensive strategies that include community engagement, deradicalization programs, and counter-narrative campaigns. Tailoring these efforts to Niger’s specific extremism drivers, with active collaboration from local communities and civil society, is imperative. Such initiatives will not only combat radicalization but also lay the foundation for a peaceful and secure future for Niger and its surrounding region. By integrating these strategies, Niger can navigate its security challenges with a robust and proactive stance.


1. How does the situation in Niger compare to other instances of military diplomacy globally, and what can be learned from these international experiences?

2. What are the potential long-term effects of military diplomacy on the political landscape and civil-military relations in Niger?

3. If executed, to what depth will an external military intervention affect the sociopolitical system in Niger?

Further readings:

Cole, E. and Gado, R.A. (2018). In Niger, Security Requires a Collaborative Strategy. [online] United States Institute of Peace. Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2024].

Diplomacy, C. (2019). Shoring up Stability in Niger | Climate-Diplomacy. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2024].

Nations, U. (2024). UN aid official urges increased support for Niger | UN News. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Mar. 2024].

Rogers, J. and Goxho, D. (2022). Light footprint—heavy destabilising impact in Niger: why the Western understanding of remote warfare needs to be reconsidered. International Politics.

United Nations Security Council (2023). Security Council press statement on the situation in the Republic of Niger | United Nations Security Council. [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Feb. 2024].

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The lessons that Niger an…

by Eric Muhia time to read: 6 min