The recent coup in Niger presents the United States with a familiar dilemma in how it conducts security assistance. There is no easy solution, but current dynamics in the Sahel, which indicate that without outside help al-Qaeda and Islamic State-affiliated groups will rapidly gain strength in the region, call for U.S. policymakers to pursue a pragmatic course.
According to Sierra Leone’s electoral commission, incumbent President Julius Maada Bio was reelected to a second—and constitutionally final—term in the June 24 presidential ballot. But opposition in the country as well as international observers have raised serious concerns about the credibility of that result.
In the past two weeks, the coup in Niger has snowballed into a confrontation pitting the civilian-led states of ECOWAS against military juntas in West Africa. But the standoff is a symptom of broader dysfunctions in the global system that underscore the need for the EU and its members to reassess their approaches to foreign policy.
It makes sense that a continent that is home to 54 countries and 1.2 billion people would also house many contradictory developments. Africa features several of the world’s fastest-growing economies and a burgeoning middle class. But much of the continent remains mired in debt, burdened by conflict and beset by elites clinging to power.
The coup in Niger caught much of the outside world by surprise, given the country’s image as a relatively stable outlier in a region beset by upheaval. But if foreign observers were stunned by President Mohamed Bazoum’s ouster, it did not come as a shock to many Nigeriens, and not solely because of Niger’s history of military coups.
If there has been a significant difference between the coup in Niger and others across the region in recent years, it has been in ECOWAS’ response to it. That highlights a nascent transition between waning Western power structures in the region and efforts to construct a new system of collective security there.