Former NATO Supreme Allied Commander in Europe James Stavridis warned on Sunday that the conflict in Niger ahead of the end of the ultimatum for the coup leaders to cede power could potentially lead to an "all-out war in Africa".
A deadline set by a coalition of West African states for Niger's return to democratic rule expired on Sunday. The demand was shunned by the other military-led countries, Burkina Faso and Mali, which jointly warned that any intervention would amount to a declaration of war on their nations.
The conditions for a major escalation are fast emerging on a continent that has hosted some of the deadliest wars of the last century. Some believe that such a confrontation would have enormous consequences, not only for the people of the Sahel region, but far beyond, with the potential to attract the United States, France and Russia, among other powers involved.
In a post on X, formally known as Twitter, Stavridis asked on Sunday: "Will this lead to an all-out war in Africa? It certainly has the potential to do so and it would be a major and devastating event."
On Friday, defense chiefs from West African states finalized an intervention plan and urged militaries to prepare resources after a stalemate in negotiations with Niger's military junta, the Associated Press reported.
"All the elements that would go into an eventual intervention have emerged here and have been fine-tuned, including the timing, the resources needed and how, where and when we would deploy such a force," Abdel Fatau Musah said, Commissioner of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, after a meeting among the defence chiefs of ECOWAS countries, in addition to Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Guinea and Niger.
However, Musah did not say whether ECOWAS would deploy a force at the end of the deadline given to the junta.
Speaking to the New York Times on Saturday by telephone, General Christopher Guabine Musa, the chief of the Nigerian defense staff, told the newspaper: "Democracy must be restored, through diplomacy or force."
On Sunday, security and intelligence expert Oluseyi Adetayo told CNN that "the preparation is already in full swing, there is no doubt about it and the army is on standby. In my understanding, Nigeria is not going to back down and will do whatever it takes to return Niger to civilian rule."
Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken wrote in X on Friday that the US is suspending some foreign aid programmes: "United States assistance to the government of Niger is contingent on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order. We are suspending certain foreign assistance programs and will continue to review our assistance as the situation evolves."