The Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) has readied itself to launch a military intervention in Niger, in case the official efforts by various countries fail to uproot the coup. A senior official of ECOWAS informed this to army chiefs of the member states on Thursday at a meeting in Ghana where talks on the details of a standby force were held.
On July 26, President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed by his presidential guards who rejected requests by United Nations, ECOWAS and Western powers to reinstate him. This rejection led to prepare for a military intervention by the ECOWAS.
“Let no one be in doubt that if everything else fails, the valiant forces of West Africa…are ready to answer to the call of duty,” ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah said.
He assured the assembled defence chiefs from member nations that constitutional order would be restored using all available measures, citing previous ECOWAS deployments in the Gambia, Liberia, and other places as proof of their readiness.
Due to its role as a base for foreign soldiers fighting against Islamist militants in the Sahel region, as well as its uranium and oil riches, Niger has geopolitical significance beyond West Africa.
Western nations worry that the junta would imitate the military administration in nearby Mali, which expelled French soldiers in favour of mercenaries from the Wagner organisation in Russia and has hailed the coup in Niger.
The concept of a foreign intervention to restore the elected president and civilian administration was rejected by inhabitants of Niamey, the capital of Niger, where sizable audiences have participated in protests against ECOWAS and in favour of the coup leaders.
“I’m not afraid because I know our armed forces are well prepared to deal with any eventuality,” said radio technician Omar Yaye. He added, “ECOWAS is manipulated by foreign powers. When we see the reactions of France since the coup and especially the harshness of ECOWAS I can only think that these are coordinated actions between France and ECOWAS,” in an anti-French rhetoric used by the military junta after taking power.
Former colonial power France has refuted claims made by the junta that it violated Niger’s airspace or was trying to undermine the nation. It has declared its support for ECOWAS’s efforts to reinstate the rule of law.
As part of global efforts to defeat the Islamist rebels who have killed thousands of people and driven millions from their homes over the past ten years, French troops are stationed in Niger alongside American, German, Italian, and German forces.
Musah denied that France or any other foreign power was trying to influence ECOWAS. “What they forget is that ECOWAS is a rules-based organisation. We have our protocols, we have our norms and we are ready to protect them,” he said.
“That’s why the heads of state are saying if push comes to shove we are going into Niger with our own contingents, own equipment and our own resources to make sure we restore constitutional order. If other democracy-loving partners want to support us they are welcome,” he added.
Musah charged that by refusing to meet with ECOWAS envoys and looking for excuses for their seizure of power, the leaders of the Niger coup were “playing cat-and-mouse” with the organisation.
The majority of the 15 member states of the bloc, according to him, were ready to join the standby force that may act in Niger. The exclusions included Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and tiny Cape Verde, all of which were also ruled by the military.
Musah challenged the junta’s declaration that it has the necessary components to try jailed Bazoum for treason. The conditions of his confinement have drawn the attention of the European Union, the United Nations, and ECOWAS.
“The irony of it is that somebody who is in a hostage situation himself…is being charged with treason. When did he commit that high treason is everybody’s guess,” Musah said.