As I retired to bed last night, I felt a renewed sense of hope and relief. The Nigerian Senate’s resolute rejection of President Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s request to deploy Nigerian and Ecowas combat troops for the restoration of Mohamed Bazoum’s government, which was overthrown in a military coup on July 26, 2023, is a testament to the wisdom of our leaders.
As the Chairman of Ecowas, President Tinubu’s zeal and eagerness to address the situation were understandable. However, a more cautious approach would have entailed consulting with military advisers to assess the feasibility of the mission before issuing any threats. It is heartening to know that the military Chiefs of Defense Staff from Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, The Gambia, Cote ‘Divoire, Cabo Verde, and Republic of Benin have all concluded that dialogue and negotiation are preferable to military force in resolving the situation in Niger.
There have been concerns that President Tinubu’s war directives were influenced by the European Union and the USA, particularly from French President Macron and American Secretary of State Antony Blinken. It’s common knowledge that both America and France maintain significant military bases in Niger, and they may be apprehensive about losing their presence due to the new government’s initial hostility towards Western interests.
Nonetheless, every nation has the right to choose its allies, be they bilateral or multilateral, and should not remain perpetually dependent on former colonisers. The growing anti-Western sentiment among some new military governments in West Africa, in favor of aligning with Russia, has sparked controversy, but it is essential to respect each country’s sovereign choices.
History has shown us that Western military interventions in African governments, deemed undemocratic or dictatorial, have not yielded desirable outcomes. The cases of Libya and its former leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, as well as the destruction wrought in Iraq on “false intelligence,” stand as reminders of the devastating consequences of such interventions.
Encouraging Ecowas countries to engage in another costly and prolonged war in Niger or the region would be irresponsible and would underscore a failure to grasp the realities of warfare and its impacts. We must not forget the sufferings caused by Europe’s war in Ukraine and the long-lasting repercussions it continues to have globally.
Launching a military operation in Niamey against an unfamiliar enemy, with uncertain resource requirements and an unpredictable duration, would lead to untold human suffering, including displacement and hunger, and various other disasters. Ultimately, such a war would likely have no clear winners or losers, except for the weapon manufacturing industries outside our continent, which would reap significant profits while draining the meager resources of participating Ecowas governments.
Given Nato’s potential strain in sustaining the ongoing war in Ukraine and funding another conflict in Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a risk that this could devolve into a proxy war, mirroring the situations in Libya and Sudan.
Therefore, we express our profound gratitude to the level-headed African leaders, both civilian and military, who wisely walked away from this perilous adventure. Their decision has spared our continent from the brink of a disastrous conflict that would have brought about immense suffering.
Let us embrace diplomacy and dialogue as we seek peaceful resolutions to conflicts and pursue sustainable progress in Africa. Together, we can build a brighter future for our continent and uphold the principles of sovereignty, peace, and prosperity for all.
Retired Lt. Colonel Samsudeen Sarr,
Former Commander of the GNA