In a significant development that underscores the escalating tensions within the West African region, the military junta in Niger Republic has declared its intention to terminate its military agreement with the neighboring Benin Republic.
This decision, announced on Tuesday via a national television broadcast, comes in response to allegations that the Benin Republic had authorized the deployment of troops within its borders, potentially in preparation for a military intervention by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) against Niger.
The region has been in a state of diplomatic upheaval since the bloodless coup on July 26, which saw the junta overthrow the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum.
ECOWAS, led by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, has been engaged in ongoing negotiations with the military leaders in Niger, seeking to restore constitutional order through peaceful means.
However, the ECOWAS coalition has been adamant that if diplomatic efforts fail, military intervention remains a last resort to ensure the return of democracy in Niger.
In their televised statement, the Nigerien junta accused Benin of “authorizing the deployment of soldiers, mercenaries, and war materials” within their borders, raising concerns about the possibility of a military alliance forming against Niger in the event of an ECOWAS intervention.
“As a result of these concerning developments the new Nigerien authorities have decided to renounce the military cooperation agreement with Benin.”
As of now, there has been no immediate response from the Benin Republic regarding the termination of the military agreement. Furthermore, ECOWAS has refrained from providing any official confirmation or details about possible deployments.
Niger, on the other hand, stated last week that talks with the regional bloc were ongoing, indicating a continued effort to find a peaceful resolution.
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, leading ECOWAS’s efforts, had previously suggested a nine-month transition back to civilian rule as a potential compromise that could satisfy regional powers. However, the Nigerien junta has consistently proposed a three-year timeline for the transition, a proposition that ECOWAS rejected.
The situation in the West African region remains fluid, with diplomatic efforts ongoing as ECOWAS seeks to find a resolution to the political crisis in Niger while navigating the intricate geopolitics of the region.
The termination of the military agreement with Benin adds another layer of complexity to an already precarious situation, and the international community watches closely as the fate of democracy in Niger hangs in the balance.