But for Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, a West African military force would be fighting in Niger to sack the junta there. Mr Tinubu, the current chairperson of the ECOWAS heads of state, stated publicly that he was stalling the deployment of the ECOWAS ‘standby force’ to Niger despite the agreement of West African heads of state.
When the West African leaders agreed last month to deploy an ECOWAS force to Niger to sack the junta and reinstate ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, residents of some of the countries voiced their opposition.
The 26 July coup saw members of Niger’s presidential guard topple the democratically elected government of Mr Bazoum and arrested the president and members of his government. The putschists have since formed a new government that is yet to be recognised by the international community including ECOWAS.
With the crisis in Niger yet to be resolved and in the absence of a survey to determine if residents of West African countries support a military invasion, PREMIUM TIMES interviewed many residents of some West African countries to know their stance on the coup and the military option.
The interviews were conducted with everyday citizens in English-speaking Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. The interviews suggest that most residents of the West African countries are opposed to a military intervention in Niger.
Solomon Appiah, a 34-year-old car dealer, said he does not support the deployment of soldiers to Niger as he believes it will cause problems for his country, Ghana.
“We only have to negotiate with them, sit with them to know what their problem is, know their reason for the coup and what they want,” he said, adding that he believes the same situation is obtainable in other African countries where there have been coups.
“Even in Ghana, we are also facing challenges,” Mr Appiah said.
Abiba Saani, a hairdresser, noted that although she is not aware of ECOWAS’ plan to deploy the military to Niger but “What are the soldiers going there to do?”
For her, Ghana must not get involved in Niger otherwise it can be targeted by people or countries that support Niger.
“I think ECOWAS can only talk to the soldiers in Niger so that they can restore democracy. If they don’t listen, I think we should just leave them alone,” Ms Saani told PREMIUM TIMES.
Iddris Mohammed a labourer, thinks putschists in Niger are right as “African leaders are taking we the citizens for granted.”
He argued that sending the military to Niger is unnecessary and as such should be cancelled.
“The soldiers in Niger are fighting for the rights of the citizens. Even today, if there is to be a coup or any serious protest in Ghana, I will be happy to join because we are really suffering while the politicians continue to enjoy,” Mr Mohammed said.
Kwame Ansah, a businessman, attributed the recent wave of coups in Africa to the greed of leaders.
“The ECOWAS leaders sit down to allow the presidents to mismanage their countries and when the citizens act, they want to intervene,” he said, adding that an intervention is not necessary and countries should be allowed to do what they want.
“Nobody supports coup detats or violence but we also don’t support presidents being greedy,” Mr Ansah said.
In The Gambia
Even though Tijan Jallow, a petty trader, thinks the military should never be allowed to rule, he does not support a military intervention in Niger.
He believes the recent coups in Africa are preplanned and orchestrated by European powers.
“The Europeans sent the military to do this. The White people want to take over Africa and they are using our military to do this,” Mr Jallow alleged.
He argued that ECOWAS cannot send soldiers to Niger because they did not do the same in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
For Mr Jallow, the best way to prevent coups is to have term limits. No president should serve more than two terms, he said.
Sohna Tunkara, a university student, insists that even if all diplomatic negotiation proves futile, ECOWAS should not resort to reinstating President Bazoum through violence.
“This would only jeopardise the peace and stability of the country thereby putting the lives and property of the people they intend to save in danger,” she argued.
Ms Tunkara said many African countries, despite being democratic, are still underdeveloped largely due to corruption.
“Coup is not the best solution as well, but once the situation escalates to such a level, violence should not be paid by violence,” she noted.
A businessman, Alagie Jallow, said he does not military intervention because “they (ECOWAS) are fighting for the white people. The French and Americans are supporting ECOWAS so they can fight and remove the military government from Niger.”
He said most Nigeriens are poor despite Niger being a resource-rich country.
“What the military did is right. If we want to solve this, all soldiers in Africa, including The Gambia, should join the Niger military to remove the white people from their country,¨ Mr Jallow told PREMIUM TIMES.
Yasukai Singhateh is caught between supporting democracy and military intervention.
“I am not a fan of war but I think swift action should be taken to stop this military uprising,” she said, adding that “this is a tough one, I am all in for democracy but then our leaders fail us.”
Ultimately, “if diplomatic means do not work, force should be taken to set an example for those planning on doing similar,¨ she said.
Armah Johnson notes that the root cause of the recent coups should be looked into.
He would have supported intervention in Niger if Nigeriens were opposed to the new government. But from events that have happened since 26 July, the people appear to be fans of the putschists, he said.
Mr Johnson said, “ECOWAS can sit and watch these African leaders change their country’s constitution in their own interest and say nothing about it but when and if the people through the military take to the rampages, then ECOWAS wants to talk.”
Engagements and dialogue are other means through which the political crisis in Niger can be solved, he added.
“On whose behalf is ECOWAS even planning such a move when we all know that war is not the answer? Is ECOWAS going to exacerbate the situation or put it under control, I know for a fact, that if ECOWAS go with such a move there will be resistance from the junta and do you know what may happen in the end?” Sadatu Fahnbulleh, a civil society activist, asked rhetorically.
Anthony Jiffan, a Liberian journalist, said that while he is opposed to coups, he does not support war against the junta “because if you go to war with the junta, instead of protecting lives, ECOWAS will be taking away innocent lives.”
He added that the intent for the deployment of troops is to protect ordinary Nigeriens and a military intervention will defeat that.
In Sierra Leone
Baimba Kamara thinks there is a need to respect the sovereignty of states in Africa. “This is a Niger problem, it does not require military intervention. French West Africa is liberating itself.”
He queried the “sudden” need to act by ECOWAS and accused the regional body of not responding in a similar manner to previous coups on the continent. The people of Niger have “accepted the military regime,” and ECOWAS must accept that, he argued.
“I am partially in support of the coup and if the government or the state is not doing that which the people want and the military think they can get things together until there is a new government, I think it is not a bad idea,” said Isha Sesay, a Sierra Leonian social worker.
Just like Mr Kamara, Ms Sesay questions the threat to use force. She alleged that ECOWAS is acting at the prompting of the West.
“The coup is not a good thing but I feel like the coup is just to shape the government and to shape politicians to know that Niger people are watching. This should be an example especially for other African countries and politicians to know that coups are very possible,” Ms Sesay said.
For Stephanie Odukwe, the situation in Niger is dicey as one cannot guarantee that the junta will offer better governance for Nigeriens neither can reinstating the ousted president guarantee that.
“If truly the people of Niger are happy with the military take over as it is shown in the media and they believe it will serve them better and foster development, then the military should be temporarily allowed to rule for the sake of peace and to avoid destruction lives/properties which a war would bring,” she said.
Ms Odukwe suggested that ECOWAS should think up better ways to convince the junta to allow a peaceful transition after a short time.
“I think the major need of the people there and in Africa as a whole is true democracy which is sadly absent in a lot of African nations,” she added.
Anthony Ibe, an On-Air Personality, told this newspaper he is indifferent about a military intervention in Niger.
“Military coups should not be the way but electoral coups have become the order of the day,” he said, alluding to elections in Africa which are often characterised by malpractices.
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