One Hungarian citizen has been successfully evacuated from the embattled country of Niger in Africa, Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó announced on his Facebook page last Wednesday, 2 August. He elaborated that this rescue was part of a larger international mission, spearheaded by the Italian military. Nearly 100 people were successfully rescued from the city of Niamey, Niger’s capital.
The entrapped people first gathered at the Italian embassy in Niamey, then, after receiving some food and having their personal information vetted, they were brought to an airport where they boarded an Italian Air Force jet in the early hours of Wednesday morning. The plane safely landed in Rome, Italy a few hours later. Minister Szijjártó went on to state that they have no knowledge of any other Hungarian citizen being currently located in Niger.
The West African nation of Niger was thrown into political chaos last month, when a coup d’état was successfully carried out by the presidential guard.
President Mohamed Bazoum was seized and forcefully removed from power, while the junta leaders proclaimed themselves in power. They were soon endorsed by the rest of the Nigerien military leadership.
An important development came in the crisis last Sunday, 6 August, at midnight. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) set this deadline for the rebel junta to step down and cede power, or face a potential military response. The junta, however, refused to do so, and instead rendered military reinforcement of the capital and closed down the country’s airspace, in preparation for foreign forces coming in. Prior to the deadline running out, they also solicited the help of the infamous Russian mercenary company the Wagner Group.
ECOWAS also imposed strict economic sanctions on Niger in the wake of the coup, such as the banning of the exports and imports of oil, and the suspension of all cross-border financial transactions.
Meanwhile, the Nigerien armed forces have stopped all cooperation with their French counterparts. Until now, Niger was one of the key allies of Western countries in the region, and had one of the few democratically elected governments, surrounded by countries where recent military coups took place, such as Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. About 1,500 servicemen from the French Armed Forces were stationed in Niger, in an effort to help the ousted administration keep Islamist military forces at bay. However, they most likely will be forced to leave soon.
As of now, President Bazoum is under ‘house arrest’. However, multiple foreign leaders claim to have spoken to him over the phone, as per CNN.com’s reportings. He also got an opinion piece published in The Washington Post, which he starts by saying ‘I write this as a hostage’.
In the piece, he also pleads for intervention from the US government and ‘the entire international community’ to help restore the democratically elected government in his country.
The Geopolitical Implications of the Niger Coup
In his opinion piece, the President of Niger warned that Boko Haram, a prominent Islamist terrorist group in the region, is likely to take advantage of the instability if the coup is not reversed in a sufficiently short time.
In addition, he believes that Russia can take the opportunity to increase its influence in Africa as well.
Rajmund Kiss, Head of the MCC Center for Diplomacy, talked to the Hungarian public television M1 about the situation in West Africa. He pointed out that a ‘domino effect’ may take place in the Sahel region, one of the most impoverished parts of the world, which could trigger another large migration wave coming to Europe. He went on to state the Orbán administration’s position, according to which European countries should help the troubled nations’ residents where they are, instead of letting them enter Europe as refugees, should be the applicable solution in this case as well.