On July 26th, a military coup led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani deposed elected Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum. This has triggered condemnation in Washington and a threat from the West African regional organization Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene militarily and restore Bazoum to power. Hailed just this past March as a ‘model of democracy’ by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Niger now stands on the precipice of conflict that could give a fillip to the Islamist militancy already raging in the region. The United States is already an actor in Niger. Since 2012, Washington has spent $500 million training and arming Nigerien armed forces, viewing the country as a critical counterrorism partner. In addition, prior to the coup, the United States had 1,100 troops stationed in the country. What is to be made of the threat of military intervention by the ECOWAS? To what extent will this coup embolden the standing of Russia and its Wagner Group in the region? What would be a sound policy for the United States to pursue in Niger and the Sahel more broadly? The discussion featured Stephanie Savell, co-director of Brown University’s Costs of War project, Adekeye Adebajo, Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria, and Hannah Rae Armstrong, a writer and policy advisor on peace and security in North Africa and the Sahel. Alex Thurston, a Quincy Institute non-resident fellow and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati, served as moderator. A transcript of the webinar can be downloaded here.
Stephanie Savell is co-director of the Costs of War project at Brown University’s Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs. She’s an anthropologist of militarism, security, and civic engagement, with a particular focus on U.S. post-9/11 military operations in West Africa and beyond. Savell’s global map of U.S. counterterrorism operations has been featured by USA Today, BBC World News, and Smithsonian Magazine, among others, and her writing and interviews have appeared widely. She is co-author of "The Civic Imagination: Making a Difference in American Political Life" (Routledge, 2014).
Adekeye Adebajo is a Senior Research Fellow at the Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship at the University of Pretoria in South Africa. He was the Director of the Institute for Pan-African Thought and Conversation (IPATC) at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) between 2017 and 2021, and was Executive Director of the Centre for Conflict Resolution (CCR) in Cape Town between 2003 and 2016. Professor Adebajo served on United Nations missions in South Africa, Western Sahara, and Iraq, and was Director of the Africa Programme at the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York. He is the author of eight books including "Building Peace in West Africa" and "UN Peacekeeping in Africa".
Hannah Rae Armstrong is a writer and policy advisor on peace and security in North Africa and the Sahel with over a decade of field-based experience. Armstrong was International Crisis Group’s (ICG) senior Sahel analyst from 2018 to 2021 and a visiting fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations’ Africa program. She is a recipient of research fellowships from the Institute of Current World Affairs (central Sahel) and the Fulbright Program (Morocco). She holds degrees from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London and the New College of Florida.
Alex Thurston is a Non-Resident Fellow at the Quincy Institute and Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Cincinnati. He has conducted research on issues pertaining to Islam and politics in northwest Africa since 2006. He has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Arab Studies from Georgetown University. From 2013-2014, he was a Desk Officer for Nigeria at the State Department’s Africa Bureau, a placement arranged through the Council on Foreign Relations’ International Affairs Fellowship program. He is the author of three books, including his most recent, "Jihadists of North Africa and the Sahel" (Cambridge, 2020).