Niger Airspace: The military regime that came into power following the July 26 coup in Niger has decided to allow commercial flights to resume, after closing its airspace on August 6.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Transport disclosed this development on Monday.
“The airspace of the Republic of Niger is open to all national and international commercial flights,” the spokesman said.
“Airspace is still closed to all operational military flights and other special flights, which are only authorised subject to prior authorisation from the competent authorities.”
The closure had forced Air France and other European airlines to suspend some flights and take longer routes across the African continent. Landlocked Niger is more than twice the size of France and many flights across Africa would normally pass above it.
On 6 August, Niger announced the closure of its airspace citing the threat of military intervention from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in order to restore power to the elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown in the coup.
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The country’s land and air borders were closed by the military the day after they took power, but reopened with five neighbouring countries on August 2. Meanwhile, some flights with special authorisations were able to continue to serve Niamey airport, the country’s capital.
Niger is still grappling with the repercussions of the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS in an attempt to pressure the military junta in power. The UN issued a warning on Friday, highlighting the severe impact of regional sanctions and border closures on the availability of essential food and medical supplies in the country.
As diplomatic efforts by West African nations and the United States have proven ineffective in persuading the military junta to relinquish control and restore President Mohamed Bazoum, the likelihood of military intervention to reverse the coup is growing.
Although ECOWAS had threatened the use of force to restore constitutional order if the country’s ousted President, Mohamed Bazoum is not reinstated, the Junta remains unyielding, with the president still under house arrest.
The commander of the elite Presidential Guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, appointed himself the new ruler of the country and created a caretaker government to rule “no longer than three years.”
Niger is a Sahel country with around 26 million people and is one of the poorest populations in the world.
The July 26 coup is the fifth military coup d’état since the country gained independence from France in 1960, and the first since 2010. There have been several coup attempts in the country between 2010 and 2023. The most recent was in 2021 when military dissidents tried to seize the presidential palace two days before the inauguration of president-elect Mohamed Bazoum.
Series of coups have toppled the governments of several African countries over the past three years, but Niger was a bit of an outlier among its neighbors.
While Niger, akin to several other West African countries, had experienced challenges such as weak economic growth and underdeveloped democratic institutions, reports indicate that Bazoum’s presidency marked advancements in education, public health, security, and economic prospects when compared to neighboring nations like Mali and Burkina Faso.
Bazoum made history as Niger’s inaugural democratically elected president to succeed another democratically elected predecessor.
The coup also came in the wake of recent coups in nearby countries, such as in Guinea, Mali, and Sudan in 2021, causing the country to be called a coup belt.
The coup has garnered condemnation from the United States, France, and the West African regional organization, ECOWAS. Niger, along with nations like Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso, remains suspended from ECOWAS membership due to previous successful coups in recent years.