Niger’s armed forces have been bringing in reinforcements to the capital to prepare for a potential invasion, a military source told CNN, just hours after the military junta running the country refused to abide by an influential regional bloc’s deadline to cede power.
A convoy of about 40 pick-up trucks arrived at nightfall on Sunday evening, bringing troops from other parts of the country to both reassure a nervous public and prepare for potential battle.
Niger has been thrown in to political chaos since late last month, when President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a coup d’etat by the presidential guard. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) responded days later by enacting sanctions and issuing an ultimatum to the ruling military junta: stand down within a week or face a potential military intervention.
That deadline came and went Sunday without any change in the political situation. Bazoum remains deposed and his whereabouts are still unknown to the public. The National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland, the junta’s formal name, is still effectively in charge of Niger. A junta leader said Sunday that Niger’s armed forces would be closing the country’s airspace due to the threat of military intervention.
What comes next is unclear. ECOWAS leaders say their preference is find a diplomatic solution to the crisis but have maintained they willing to resort to the use of force as a last resort to return Niger’s democratically elected government to power.
The uncertainty has rattled residents in Niamey, the capital. Some people flocked to supermarkets purchase staples like rice and cooking oil in bulk, while others attempted to flee. Employees of local bus companies said most lines out of the capital were fully booked.