The West African nations have sanctioned potential armed intervention in Niger with a sense of urgency, according to the President of Ivory Coast. The decision was made during a meeting of Ecowas leaders convened to address the recent coup in Niger.
In response to the situation, Ecowas leaders collectively agreed to organize a “standby” military force, underscoring their commitment to restoring constitutional order in the country.
Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, emphasized that the use of force would be contemplated only as a last resort.
The coup took place in Niger on July 26, resulting in a military junta taking control. There has been widespread concern for the well-being of the ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been confined to house arrest for over two weeks.
International bodies, including the US and the UN, have expressed apprehension over the living conditions of Mr. Bazoum and his family.
Following the Ecowas meeting, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast noted the organization’s historical intervention to restore constitutional order in various African countries. He emphasized that the same principles applied to the situation in Niger, emphasizing Ecowas’s stance against such actions.
Mr. Ouattara announced that Ivory Coast would contribute a battalion of 850 to 1,100 soldiers, while Nigeria and Benin would also deploy troops.
Omar Touray, the Ecowas group’s president, disclosed that members have decided to authorize the deployment of the Ecowas standby force for the purpose of reinstating constitutional order in Niger. Specific details regarding the composition of the force and its potential actions were not elaborated upon.
Prior to the meeting, Muslim clerics from northern Nigeria, which shares a significant border with Niger, had advised President Tinubu against resorting to force to remove the coup leaders.
After the meeting, President Tinubu articulated a comprehensive approach, stating that while all options remain open, the use of force would be employed only as a last resort. He asserted that the responsibility to address the situation ultimately lies with the affected nations.
The coup leaders have expressed their readiness to defend themselves against any external intervention.
Ecowas previously set a deadline for the Niger junta to restore the democratically-elected government, which was disregarded. In lieu of compliance, the military leaders announced a new governing cabinet.
With both the US and France maintaining military bases in Niger to counter jihadist groups across the wider Sahel region, the geopolitical implications of the crisis have been brought to the forefront
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier highlighted the potential involvement of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group amid the instability in Niger