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Nigeriens rally for mass volunteer recruitment as Junta faces imminent threat of regional invasion

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Niamey, Niger: In response to escalating tensions and the looming threat of a regional invasion, citizens of Niger are uniting to prepare for potential conflict. Just three weeks after mutinous soldiers ousted the democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, from power, the nation’s capital, Niamey, is witnessing a groundswell of support for the mass recruitment of volunteers to aid the country’s military forces.

Residents of Niamey are heeding the call to establish a formidable defense against a possible military intervention by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS. The bloc has indicated its intention to employ military force unless the junta reinstates President Bazoum. In response, ECOWAS has activated a “standby force” as a means to restore order in Niger, after the junta ignored a deadline to restore Bazoum’s presidency.

Initiated by a group of locals in Niamey, the campaign aims to attract tens of thousands of volunteers from across the nation to register with the “Volunteers for the Defense of Niger.” These volunteers would offer support in various capacities, including combat, medical assistance, technical expertise, and engineering logistics. Amsarou Bako, one of the initiative’s founders, expressed the urgency of preparedness, stating, “It’s an eventuality. We need to be ready whenever it happens.” The recruitment drive is scheduled to commence on Saturday in Niamey, and also in key cities near potential invasion points, such as those close to the borders with Nigeria and Benin.

Bako clarified that the volunteers would be available to the junta if needed, although the junta is not directly involved in this recruitment effort. The junta is reportedly aware of the initiative, which is seen as a proactive measure to safeguard national security and sovereignty.

The standoff between Niger and ECOWAS continues to escalate, despite intermittent signals from both sides suggesting willingness to engage in peaceful dialogue. While the junta recently expressed openness to discussions with ECOWAS, it subsequently charged Bazoum with “high treason” and took additional assertive measures.

As the possibility of an intervention hangs in the balance, regional and international observers caution against the potential consequences of a prolonged conflict. Analysts suggest that a protracted military intervention could exacerbate instability, displacement, and poverty in the already fragile Sahel region. The potential for a regional war raises alarm among conflict experts, who highlight the importance of a diplomatic resolution.

In this complex scenario, the role of foreign nations, including the United States and France, comes into play. Both countries maintain a military presence in the region, with training and joint operations in collaboration with Niger’s armed forces. The evolving situation poses a challenge for Western nations to strike a delicate balance between promoting democratic ideals and maintaining strategic relationships.

While diplomatic efforts remain ongoing, the people of Niger are taking proactive steps to safeguard their nation’s future. The initiative to mobilize volunteers demonstrates their determination to protect their homeland from external threats, even as the specter of invasion looms large. The coming days may reveal the impact of these efforts as Niger prepares for potential challenges ahead.

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