On the night of 26 July in Niger, on the television broadcast where Colonel Maj Amadou Abdramane and the soldiers with him were present, the administration was seized, and in this context, President Mohammed Bazum was dismissed and detained, the borders were closed and a temporary curfew was declared. After the developments, many regional and international actors reacted to the military coup. Countries in the region neighboring Niger, especially regional and international organizations, condemned the military figures who attempted a coup in the democratic process.
Niger is in a strategic position in terms of its rich uranium resources and hosting the bases of countries that have an active military presence in the Sahel region, such as the USA and France. In this sense, it can be stated that in addition to the USA and France, Russia, China and Turkey also have certain economic, social and military engagements.
In addition, Niger is a country where France has deployed approximately 1500 soldiers after entering Mali in 2014 as part of the Barkhane Operations and is at the center of its military planning in the Sahel. Similar statements came from Libya, a North African country bordering Niger, and Prime Minister Abdulhamid Dibeybe and Chairman of the Presidential Council Muhammed Menfi reacted to the developments.
Reactions from Libya to the Coup Attempt
President of the Presidential Council Menfi condemned the effort to change the government in Niger in an unconstitutional way and stated that unlawful military steps were not based on any legitimate ground.
Menfi added that similarly, the African Union (AfB) charter also rejects unconstitutional interventions and noted that the army units involved in the coup in Niger should return to their barracks. However, the Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (MBH) in Libya, Abdulhamid Dibeybe, stated that he was concerned about the developments in Niger, and in his post on his Twitter account, he emphasized that the military moves that undermine the security and stability of the region are alarming for the countries in the region. Dibeybe,
The developments in Niger are very closely related to Libya, which is in a political deadlock due to the elections. The slow progress of the negotiations carried out by the 6+6 Joint Committee formed by the representatives of the Tobruk-based Libyan House of Representatives and the Supreme Council of State (DYK) and the increased pressure of the UN Libya Support Mission (UNSMIL) on the committee reduces the possibility of reaching an agreement aiming at a comprehensive solution. In addition, the prolongation of the process paves the way for Khalifa Haftar, the leader of the militia forces in eastern Libya, to turn his rhetoric into a more aggressive tone.
In this context, it seems likely that the stability and peace that Libya is trying to establish within itself will be affected by extra-regional factors. Just like Mali, the country that was affected by the coup in Niger entering a period of chaos may cause the conflicts in Niger to spread to Libya over broad common borders.
In such a scenario, it may become possible for armed groups active in the south of the country to engage in some illegal activities by taking advantage of the chaos environment.
At this point, one of the main points to be emphasized is that smuggling activities and terrorist groups have transformed the Fezzan region of Libya into a transit zone. This situation includes the possibility of adding a new one to the existing security vulnerabilities.
So much so that the Fezzan region under the approach of unmanageable areas, It is defined as areas where basic public services cannot be provided and where security concerns reach a serious level in the eyes of the public.
At this point, the fact that the atmosphere in Niger, as a country with a relatively stable and strong state authority in the Sahel region, reached an uncontrollable dimension, provided the non-state armed actors (DDSA) in the country with the environment they were looking for, turning these points into “ports of refuge” (safe haven ).
On the other hand, the success of the military coup in Niger and the takeover of military figures in the country may cause the leader of the militia in eastern Libya and former soldier Khalifa Haftar to store motivation.
This scenario, which can be read as a domino effect, has examples specific to the region in the past. As it is known, the coup attempts launched by Haftar against the UN-backed governments in the west in 2014 and 2019 failed.
However, at this point, his statements and his efforts to undermine the reconciliation/dialogue process in Libya through the political and military elites, especially the Tobruk-based parliament, show that Haftar still has similar goals for the future.
Therefore, the internal turmoil in Niger and the spread of the chaos here to Libya may offer Haftar the environment he is looking for. For Haftar, who is in silent competition with the forces affiliated with the current government in the south of Libya, the atmosphere of insecurity that will arise due to the events in Niger in this region may pave the way for a military intervention in the province of Fezzan. Because in the literature, these regions have an important symbolic value in terms of power variables in Libyan politics.
The third topic is the potential of the young population holding a gun to turn into a “mercenary”, as in the case of Sudan and Chad, as the events in Niger take a further stage. Considering the Sudanese Janjavits who have fought alongside Haftar in the recent past, who have now turned into Rapid Support Forces (HDG) from the parties of the civil war in Sudan, and the Front for Change and Integration (FACT) militia groups in Chad, such a situation creates wider problems in Libya.
It may become possible. Similarly, FACT mercenaries, who participated in the 2019 coup attempt in the ranks of Haftar, made a coup attempt by moving to Chad with the cut off of the financial allowance, and as a result of the conflicts, the then President of Chad, Idris Debi, lost his life.
Finally, it can be said that DAESH, which has adopted the strategy of being buried in the public as a “sleeper cell” in the Fezzan region of Libya, closely follows the developments in Niger and will begin preparations for operational activities again depending on the developments there. ISIS last committed suicide at a police checkpoint in Sebha in 2021.
Considering the statements and approach of Menfi and Dibeybe, it can be stated that all these factors were evaluated by the military bureaucracy in Libya. The coup in Niger may facilitate the transition of armed groups and militias to Libya due to weak border controls and security gaps in the south, and it is possible to say that this situation is seen as a national security issue.
In addition, the events may undermine the ongoing political transition process in Libya and pave the way for the anti-stability steps of actors like Haftar whose role in the political arena has been reduced to a minimum.
In conclusion, it can be said that the developments in Niger are closely followed by the decision makers in Libya and serious border measures will be taken in this direction in the short term.
Fuat Emir – He works as a North African Studies Researcher at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (ORSAM).His work in Libya. His areas of special interest include terrorist movements in the Sahel region, the geopolitics of the Red Sea, soft power and public diplomacy.