Lagos, Aug 10 (EFE).- The commission of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ordered Thursday the activation of the bloc’s stand-by force ahead of a possible military intervention in Niger to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who was ousted in a July 26 coup.
“Direct the committee of the Chief of Defense Staff to activate the ECOWAS stand-by force with all its elements immediately,” commission head Omar Alieu Touray said, reading from a resolution approved during a special meeting of ECOWAS heads of state and government in the Nigerian capital of Abuja.
Though the resolution went on to “order the deployment of the ECOWAS stand-by force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” it also included affirmation of the bloc’s “continued commitment to the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.”
In his remarks at the start of the conference, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu laid emphasis on the preference for resolving the crisis peacefully.
“It is crucial that we prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach,” he said. “We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum. It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.”
At the first ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit in the wake of the coup, on June 30, the respective national leaders gave the junta in Niamey seven days to stand down and restore Bazoum to power or face military intervention.
But the junta, who call themselves the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP), defied the ultimatum, closed the nation’s airspace and threatened an “energetic” response to any military action.
And the CNSP has denounced the economic sanctions imposed by ECOWAS, which include cutting the flow of electricity into Niger from Nigeria.
While Tinubu’s government has declared its readiness to intervene in Niger, the Nigerian Senate opposes the idea.
Benin, Ivory Coast, and Senegal say they will take part in such a mission.
But neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali – both currently governed by military juntas – have stated that they will regard an attack on Niger as an attack on them.
Chad, which has the longest border with Niger, says it will not participate. And another neighbor, Algeria, is firmly opposed to military intervention.
Niger, a former French colony, is the fourth West African nation to experience a military coup since 2020, joining Mali, Guinea-Conakry, and Burkina Faso.
Earlier this week, the CNSP declined to receive a joint ECOWAS-African Union-United Nations delegation. Members of the junta met on Monday with a senior diplomat from the United States, Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, but denied her request to see Bazoum. EFE bb-pm/dr