President of the Economic Community of West African (ECOWAS) Commission, Omar Touray, has stressed that the resolution taken by the Authority of Heads of State was not that of Nigeria.
Addressing a press conference to explain the position, Touray reiterated that ECOWAS had been engaged in peaceful and diplomatic efforts to effect the restoration of constitutional order in Niger and the communiqué had made it very clear; the Authority has kept that window open.
He said: “May I use this opportunity to say one thing and one thing alone. This is ECOWAS, made up of 15 member countries, as you have seen, who’ve met and decided on the way forward on this matter.
“It is not one country against another country. It is not the community against one country; the community has its instruments to which all members have subscribed and it is now up to the heads of state and incumbent upon them to make sure the provisions of the various instruments are applied and implemented.
“So let us look at this as a community initiative, a community action, not an individual country going against another country, and ECOWAS is not going against ECOWAS citizens. ECOWAS is trying to implement principles of the community that we have all subscribed to. That is very important.
“There is a lot of information out there, trying to present this as one country against another country. That is not the situation, and the leaders have made it clear that they are taking their responsibility and acting in accordance with their own plans and intensions.
“It is not that we have anything against any country or any people. This is a regional position. Please let us send that message out. This is a regional position. It is not one country against another.
“Sometimes we tend to change the narrative, but as you have seen, eight heads of state were here from ECOWAS. In addition to the eight heads of states, you had two other heads of states; the Head of State of Burundi and the Head of State of Mauritania, and then you have representatives of various international organisations
“So this is a regional initiative, it’s not an individual country going after another country, or the community going against citizens of the community; Nigeriens are ECOWAS citizens and I think it is important we all recall that before the attempted coup, nobody imposed sanctions on Niger.
“So I think we should put the blame on those people who have taken the initiative to remove a constitutionally elected head of state.
“We have all agreed to abide by constitutional order, abide by constitutional rule, so when constitutional order is broken, there are consequences, and that is what the heads of state are trying to apply.”
Asked why the body was insisting on using force when citizens of concerned country are opposed to it, he said: “If I may answer that question quickly, I think the communiqué is very clear; window for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means remains open.
“Nobody should consider this as the only option opened to ECOWAS. ECOWAS has been engaged in peaceful and diplomatic efforts to effect the restoration of constitutional order in Niger and the communiqué has made it very clear that the Authority has kept that window open.”
Asked when the deployment of Standby Force will happen and if there were conversations about the funding, Touray said: “The heads of state have taken the decision and directed the mobilisation of the Standby Force; they’ve also directed the military authorities in the subregion to deploy the Standby Force of the community. As to the financing, that has been discussed, and appropriate measures are being taken.”
Asked to clarify if by deployment of the force they were being sent into Niger immediately, he said: “As political leaders, they have directed the military leaders of the subregion to mobilise and deploy. I leave you to liaise with military authorities for details.”
Asked to react to concerns that these sanctions were draw back on the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), he said: “When we are citing one instrument of the community or the continent, we should not ignore other instrument.
“As you cited the instrument of the African Continental Free Trade Area, may I remind you to recall that there are continental and regional instruments that outlaw unconstitutional takeover of power.”
Asked to explain the call for international support and in what way, Touray said: “In any other way, they can support the community.”
Asked how many troops will be deployed and where they be based and the composition by countries, the ECOWAS commission chair said: “May I refer you to ECOWAS website for further details on the regional Standby Force will be available there.”