ECOWAS: Military ready to strike in coup-hit Niger if talks fail

The West African bloc agrees to activate standby force as a last resort if diplomatic efforts fail after coup in Niger

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has agreed on a “D-day” for possible military intervention to restore democracy in Niger after generals toppled and detained President Mohamed Bazoum last month.

The regional bloc agreed on Friday to activate a standby force as a last resort if diplomatic efforts fail, a senior official said without disclosing when that is.

“We are ready to go anytime the order is given,” ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security Abdel-Fatau Musah said during the closing ceremony of a two-day meeting of West African army chiefs in Accra.

“The D-day is also decided, which we are not going to disclose. We’ve already agreed and fine-tuned what will be required for the intervention,” he said, emphasising that ECOWAS was still seeking to engage peacefully with Niger’s military leaders.

“As we speak, we are still readying [a] mediation mission into the country, so we have not shut any door.”

Invasion strategy ready

The defence chiefs met to fine-tune details of the potential military operation to restore Bazoum if ongoing negotiations with the coup leaders fail.

“Let no one be in doubt that if everything else fails, the valiant forces of West Africa, both the military and the civilian components, are ready to answer to the call of duty,” Musah said.

“We are doing it for ourselves by ourselves and for posterity,” the commissioner added. “We want to get back to constitutional normalcy in the ECOWAS region and the decision is that the coup in Niger is one coup too many for the region and we are putting a stop to it this time.”

“Our doors are open, but we are not going to engage in endless dialogue. It must be truthful and its objective must be the restoration of constitutional order in the shortest possible time. If they want to take the peaceful pathway to the very early restoration of constitutional order then we are ready to stand down the military option.”

Military officers deposed Bazoum on July 26 and have defied calls from the United Nations, ECOWAS and others to reinstate him.

Most of ECOWAS’s 15 member states are prepared to contribute to the joint force, except Cape Verde and those also under military rule – Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – a bloc official said on Thursday.

Bazoum, whose 2021 election was a landmark in Niger’s troubled history, has been held with his family at the president’s official residence since the coup, and international concern is growing over his conditions in detention.

Rampant coups

ECOWAS has a poor track record in stemming the region’s rampant coups. Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali have each had two within three years.

Niger’s coup was seen by the international community and ECOWAS as one too many. In addition to threatening a military invasion, the bloc has imposed severe economic and travel sanctions.

But as time drags on with no military action and a standstill in negotiations, Niger’s military leaders are becoming entrenched in power, leaving ECOWAS with few choices.

Any use of force would further destabilise West Africa’s impoverished Sahel region, which is already engaged in a decade-old battle with armed groups.

Niger also has a strategic importance beyond West Africa because of its uranium and oil reserves and role as a hub for foreign troops involved in the fight against the armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).



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