Algeria tries to play peacemaker in Niger
Algeria announced that the military junta in Niger has accepted its offer to mediate a return to civilian control. In late August, Algiers proposed a six-month-long transition plan, overseen by a civilian.
Algeria has advantages as a mediator. It has good relations with the United States but opposes French intervention in Africa, which the Nigerien junta has also opposed vociferously. Algiers also condemned the coup and supported ousted President Mohamed Bazoum but has been steadfastly opposed to any military intervention against its southern neighbor.
Countries to Niger’s south and west are under pressure to take action against this coup, the latest in a string of putsches in the region. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who also presides over ECOWAS, a political bloc of West African states, had activated a response force and threatened to attack Niger as a matter of last resort.
The long delay in action betrays ECOWAS’s hesitancy — intervention in Niger is likely to get messy and drag in countries like Mali and Burkina Faso that have pledged to support the junta. But if Algeria can make progress in talks, it gives Tinubu a good argument that the measure of last resort is not yet necessary.
It all might be a little too good to be true. Amaka Anku, head of Eurasia Group’s Africa practice, says the situation “sounds pretty similar to previous statements that [Niger] was ready to negotiate with ECOWAS.”
Diplomatic missions by both ECOWAS and US officials have amounted to scant progress in restoring civilian control in Niger. While Algiers is touting this as a path toward a peaceful resolution, Anku says it is not clear that Algeria will be successful.