ECOWAS Approve Armed Intervention in Niger to Restore Constitutional Order

By Mohammed Bello Doka. 

In a significant development, West African nations have unanimously agreed to take armed action in Niger to restore constitutional order following the recent coup. At a meeting of the Ecowas regional bloc, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara announced that the leaders had approved the deployment of a standby military force. Although specific details about the force's size were not disclosed, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria emphasized that the use of force would be considered as a last resort.

The military junta seized power in Niger on July 26, prompting concerns among the Ecowas member states. During the meeting in Abuja, President Ouattara highlighted previous instances where Ecowas had intervened to maintain constitutional order in African countries. He stressed that Ecowas could not accept the situation unfolding in Niger and pledged to contribute a battalion of 850 to 1,100 men from the Ivory Coast. Additionally, soldiers from Nigeria and Benin would also be deployed.

While the exact number of troops and the overall force size are yet to be determined, a presidential source in Abuja revealed that Ecowas intends to demonstrate its readiness through a "show of force" to convince the coup leaders to engage in dialogue. The ultimate goal is to bring General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the leader of the coup, to the negotiation table.

Former Nigerian military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar, who led a delegation to Niger without meeting the coup leader, expressed a commitment to peace at the end of the meeting. He emphasized that war was not a desired outcome and reaffirmed that all options remained on the table.

Ecowas President Omar Touray confirmed that the members had made a decision to deploy the Ecowas standby force for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger but did not provide further specifics about the composition or actions of the force.

Negotiations with the junta have proven challenging as they have shown reluctance to engage directly with Ecowas. Abdel Musah, the bloc's security commissioner, asserted that Ecowas would not tolerate the junta remaining in power during a transitional period, as was seen in Burkina Faso and Mali. The international community has expressed concern for the deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been under house arrest for over two weeks.

Prior to the meeting, Muslim clerics from northern Nigeria, which shares a border with Niger, advised President Tinubu against employing force to remove the coup leaders. However, after the meeting, President Tinubu stated that all options, including the use of force as a last resort, remained open. He emphasized the need for action, highlighting the responsibility of West African nations to address the situation themselves.

The coup leaders have issued warnings, vowing to defend themselves against any intervention. Ecowas had previously set a deadline for the junta to reinstate the democratically-elected government, but this ultimatum was ignored, and the military leaders proceeded to appoint a new ruling cabinet.

It is worth noting that the United States and France maintain military bases in Niger, which have been instrumental in counterterrorism efforts across the wider Sahel region. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken recently expressed his concerns about the presence of Russia's Wagner mercenary group, stating that they were taking advantage of the instability in Niger.

As tensions rise, West African nations are preparing to take decisive action to restore constitutional order in Niger and ensure stability in the region.

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