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Niger Greenlights Mali and Burkina Faso’s Military Support as ECOWAS Tensions Escalate

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NIAMEY, Niger — The junta in Niger has authorised armed forces from Mali and Burkina Faso to intervene on its territory in case of an attack.

The decision comes as the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, warns of potential military action to restore constitutional order in Niger.

Foreign ministers from Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso met in Niamey, Niger’s capital, on Thursday, August 24, 2023, to discuss enhancing cooperation on security and other mutual interests.

In a joint statement, they announced that General Abdourahamane Tiani, the junta leader in Niger, had signed two orders permitting intervention from Mali and Burkina Faso’s Defense and Security Forces in the event of an attack on Nigerien soil.

“The Burkinabe and Malian Ministers… reiterated their rejection of an armed intervention against the people of Niger, which will be considered as a declaration of war,” the statement said.

The announcement underscores growing tensions in the region.

ECOWAS has been in negotiations with the junta leaders, but has not ruled out the option of deploying troops to restore constitutional governance in Niger if diplomatic efforts falter.

The move by Niger to authorize intervention by Mali and Burkina Faso can be seen as a show of solidarity among the three junta-led countries, and may complicate ECOWAS’s diplomatic efforts.

“Any escalation risks further destabilizing an already insurgency-torn region,” warned West African security analyst Dr. Aminata Toure. “If Mali and Burkina Faso openly back Niger in a conflict with ECOWAS, we’re looking at a potentially explosive situation.”

The latest development is likely to raise eyebrows among international observers concerned about the stability of the Sahel, a region already plagued by terrorist activities and civil unrest.

Countries like France and the United States, with a security presence in the region, will likely watch developments closely.

Both Mali and Burkina Faso have experienced coups in recent years and are dealing with their own internal conflicts and security challenges.

Their pledge to back Niger in any conflict with ECOWAS thus not only tightens the alliance among these nations but also heightens the risks of regional destabilization.

The trio’s alignment could test the efficacy of diplomatic and military measures by ECOWAS, which has historically struggled to enforce its mandates.

As the West African bloc contemplates its next move, the Nigerien authorization dramatically alters the equation, pushing the region closer to a crossroads between diplomatic resolution and military escalation.

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