NIGER COUP: ECOWAS activates standby force for military intervention
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday ordered the activation of a standby force for possible use against the junta that took power in Niger in July.
President of ECOWAS, Omar Alieu Touray, gave the order while reading the resolution taken at the Extraordinary meeting on the Niger coup in Abuja on Thursday.
ECOWAS leaders converged on Abuja to discuss its next line of action after the seven day ultimatum for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum elapsed without compliance from the junta.
At the meeting, the regional bloc said all efforts to dialogue with Niger junta have been rejected by coup leaders.
The bloc said it wanted a peaceful restoration of democracy but all options including force were on the table.
The threat of an invasion has remained non specific so far, but it has raised tensions in and around Niger, a uranium producer that until the coup was an important ally of the West in the fight against Islamist insurgents devastating the Sahel region.
Partof the resolutions read out on Thursday include:
“The Authority having considered the memorandum presented by the President of the ECOWAS commission on the current situation in the Republic of Niger, as well as ECOWAS engagement since the last extraordinary summit; and having considered the reports of the envoys of the chair, to Niger and various other places; carefully considered the report and recommendations of the ECOWAS committee of chiefs of defense staff;
“It extensively discussed the latest development in Niger since the last extra ordinary Summit held on 30th July 2023. Noted that all diplomatic efforts made by ECOWAS, in resolving the crisis have been defiantly repelled by the military leadership of the Republic of Niger; took note of the expiration of the one week ultimatum given for the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger decide as follows:
“Further condemns the condition in which President Bazoum is being detained and hold the CNSP fully and solely responsible for the safety, security and physical integrity of President Bazoum, members of his family and government.
“Uphold all measures and principles agreed upon by the extra ordinary Summit held on Niger on 30th July 2023.
“Underscore the determination of the ECOWAS authority to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“Enforce all measures in particular border closures and strict travel bans and assets freeze on all persons or groups of individuals whose actions hinder all peaceful efforts aimed at ensuring the smooth and complete restoration of constitutional order.
“Warn member states who by their action directly or indirectly, hindered the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community.
“Call on the African Union to endorse all the decisions taken by the ECOWAS authority on the situation in Niger.
“Further call on all partner countries and institutions including the United Nations to support ECOWAS, in its effort to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order, in conformity with its normative instruments.
“Direct the President of the Commission to monitor the implementation of the sanctions.
“Direct the Committee of the chief of defense staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately. Order the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Underscore its continued commitment for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.”
The junta, which seized power on July 26, had refused to bulge despite an August 6 deadline set by ECOWAS, insisting that it would defend the country against any foreign attack.
After a summit of its heads of state in the Nigerian capital Abuja, the bloc pledged to enforce sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes on those preventing the return to power of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
“No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort,” said Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS chair.
“I hope that through our collective effort we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger,” he said. “All is not lost yet.”
Security analysts said a regional force could take weeks or longer to assemble, and that time lag could give room for possible negotiations.
The statement failed to spell out how the force would be funded, which countries would participate or how many troops and what hardware they could contribute.
“There’s probably still a lot that has not been agreed to, such as timeline and red lines and what to do in contingency situations if things continue to go sour,” said Aneliese Bernard, director of consultancy Strategic Stabilization Advisors.
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