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ECOWAS Activates “Standby Force” In Attempt To Remove Niger Coup Leaders

In furtherance of its resolve to restore constitutional rule in Niger after the military take over two weeks ago, the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met for the second time in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday, August 10, 2023 and reaffirmed that they would deploy a “standby force” against the military Junta and restore ousted President Mohamed Bazoum back to power.

According to a dispatch from our correspondent in Abuja, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, said after an emergency summit that members had decided “to order the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger.”

The leaders also said on Thursday that they firmly supported diplomacy in the search to end the crisis in Niger. The 15-nation bloc is struggling to stem military takeovers that have now swept through four of its members in three years.

Their summit came four days after the expiry of an ultimatum to Niger’s coup leaders to reinstate the elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who was detained by guards on July 26. But the regime ignored the deadline.

Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Tinubu who chaired the summit said it was high time that the leaders from the subregion rally around the people of Niger to restore constitutional rule while at the same time lamented that despite all efforts aimed to amicably resolving the situation, the coup leaders in Niger remain adamant to remain in power.

“Regrettably, the seven-day ultimatum we issued during the first summit has not yielded the desired outcome,” Tinubu acknowledged. “We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum.”

At the end of the summit, a communique was issued by leaders which among other things “Directs the Committee of the Chief of Defence Staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately, orders the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger, underscore its continued commitment for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means, Direct the President of the Commission to monitor the implementation of previous sanctions, call on the African Union to endorse all the decisions taken by the ECOWAS authority on the situation in Niger and warn member states who by their action directly or indirectly, hindered the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community”.

The coup leaders on Thursday signaled further defiance by appointing a new government. A 21-member cabinet will be headed by Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, a civilian, with generals from the new military governing council leading the defense and interior ministries.

The possibility of military intervention in Niger, a fragile nation that ranks among the world’s poorest, sparked debate within ECOWAS and warnings from neighboring Algeria as well as Russia.

Niger’s neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, both ruled by military governments that seized power in coups, also warned an intervention would be a “declaration of war” on their countries.

Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, also hit by a recent coup, have been suspended from ECOWAS and like Niger were not represented at the Abuja summit.

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