ECOWAS gears up for military action in Niger

The Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, said yesterday the militaries of West African countries are set to restore democracy in Niger Republic head-on.
He said the decisions would send a strong message about the military’s commitment to democracy, intolerance for unconstitutional change of government, and dedication to regional stability.

Musa said this at the extraordinary meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CCDS) of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at the Defence Headquarters Abuja.

The Nigerien military on 26 July overthrew a democratically elected president, Mohamed Banzoum.

The action was condemned by ECOWAS leadership, which had given the juntas seven days to reinstate the president.

Musa, who is also the President of the ECOWAS Committee of CDS, said the coup d’etat in Niger has called for their collective attention and a united response, which must be faced head-on.

The CDS said: “We must face the challenges of restoring democratic governance in Niger head-on, drawing on our shared experiences, wisdom and collective resolve. Our decisions will have far-reaching implications for the ECOWAS region. ECOWAS’ strength lies in unity, shared values and commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity.

“We are not oblivious to the complex challenges that lie ahead. The task of restoring democratic governance in Niger is fraught with potential hurdles and complications.

“However, we cannot afford to be hamstrung by these challenges. Instead, we must confront them head-on, drawing upon our shared experiences, wisdom, and the strength of our collective resolve.

“Our decisions will send a strong message about our commitment to democracy, our intolerance for unconstitutional change of governments, and our dedication to regional stability.”

The CDS said the ECOWAS, since its establishment, has remained steadfast in its commitment to promoting economic cooperation and regional integration, and resolute in its stand against any form of illegal takeover of power, as enshrined in the 2001 Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.

“It is this principle that compels us to convene today and address the current situation in Niger,” he said.

According to the CDS, the political instability in Niger is a source of grave concern, which threatens our shared vision of a peaceful, secure, and prosperous West Africa, a vision which he said was impossible to achieve amidst political upheavals and disruptions to constitutional order.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, said the time has come for ECOWAS to show that it is a rule-based organisation.

“We are a rule-based organisation and we cannot allow the rule by ballot to be replaced by the rule of Kakki,” he said.

Musah condemned the criticism that ECOWAS would be infringing on the sovereignty of the Republic of Niger by asking for the restoration of the democratically elected government.

He said: “We are guided by the protocol relating to the Mechanism for the Prevention, Management, Resolution Peacekeeping and Security adopted in 1999, and signed by all the member states in 2001. If you are in an international organisation and you sign up peace and security protocol document you ceded part of your sovereignty.

Also yesterday, the United Kingdom (UK) expressed support for the ECOWAS position on the military coup in Niger Republic.

Its Foreign Secretary, James Cleverly, registered his country’s support for ECOWAS when he visited President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Cleverly said the UK welcomed both the ECOWAS position and President Tinubu’s decisive actions over the situation.

“We touched briefly on the situation in Niger. I made the point that the UK very much welcomes ECOWAS’ and his (Tinubu’s) decisive action, his strong commitment to democracy and the unambiguous message that violence is not the means to bring political change in any circumstance.

“And that the commitment to democracy in Nigeria and the region is unwavering”, he said.

ECOWAS had on Sunday decried the hijack of democratic power in the neighbouring Niger, slamming a number of sanctions on the country, issuing a week ultimate for constitutional order to be restored and President Mohamed Bazoum to be reinstated, or risk possible military action.

Niger was suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within the ECOWAS, which called on the West African Monetary Union and other similar regional bodies to implement the resolutions immediately.

Citing ECOWAS’s response, Cleverly said, “This very much supports the UK’s position. We wish to see peace and democracy restored in Niger.

The border crossings to Mali, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Libya, and Chad were reopened yesterday. The junta also appointed new governors for the country’s eight regions.

Meanwhile, France and Italy began evacuating their citizens and others, with two planes landing in France and one in Italy.

The French planes carried mainly French citizens but also Germans and several other EU nationals, some from the United States, Ethiopia, and elsewhere, according to French press reports and the French Foreign Ministry.

The first flight carried at least 260 people, including 12 babies.

The European Commission said in a statement that around 500 people arrived in Paris yesterday on board the first two repatriation flights from Niamey.

According to information from the French General Staff, two more planes had also been sent to Niamey for the evacuation.

France has offered to evacuate people from other European countries from Niger as well.

The Foreign Office in Berlin had said that the Germans in Niger were advised to accept the offer.

An international relations expert, Prof. Babafemi Badejo, said yesterday preventing coups in West Africa is not by sanctions and threats.

He said it was by addressing leadership deficit and corruption, curtailing negative external pressures, as well as building credible institutions to provide for the needs of the people.

Badejo, former Head of Political Affairs, UN-AU Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), said this in a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos.

According to him, diplomacy is superior to threats of the use of force that may be difficult or impossible to implement.

Badejo, also, professor of Political Science and International Relations, Chrisland University, said the coup makers were consolidating and mobilising the populace toward an acceptance of the development.

The expert, who described the coup as an unfortunate development, questioned the ultimatum issued by ECOWAS and if Nigeria was prepared to lead a process toward a truncated ECOWAS.

“Has the necessary resolution of the UN Security Council been sought with a certainty that there will be no veto making an ECOWAS war illegal as ECOWAS got stopped over Côte d’Ivoire?

“Has costs and benefits analysis been done by the Nigerian authorities for the short, medium, and long-term, especially under the current financial problems Nigeria is facing?” he questioned.

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