Defense chiefs of the West African regional group, ECOWAS, on Friday, agreed on a plan for intervention in Niger if its coup leaders do not restore constitutional order.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, said their recommendations would be passed on to the heads of state.
“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going deploy the force,” he said.
ECOWAS is also trying to pursue a diplomatic solution, but it had set a Sunday deadline as a last resort if Niger’s junta do not restore ousted president Mohammed Bazoum to power.
Junta thwarts diplomatic outreach
A team from ECOWAS left Niger Friday failing to secure the return to power of Niger’s elected government.
Led by former Nigerian President Abdulsalami Abubakar, the delegation was scheduled to meet coup leader Abdourahamane Tchani,who also goes by Omar, to present the bloc’s demands.
It was also scheduled to meet Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
Beyond Africa, Germany urged continued “mediation efforts” on Friday, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman expressing hopes that such mediation would lead to a “political solution.”
Russia, meanwhile, warned of outside intervention. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow was closely monitoring the situation and favoring “a swift return to constitutional normality without endangering human lives.”
“It is unlikely that the intervention of any extra-regional force can change the situation for the better,” Peskov told reporters.
How has the Niger junta responded?
The junta had rejected ECOWAS’ demands and threat of force.
“Any aggression or attempted aggression against the State of Niger will see an immediate and unannounced response from the Niger Defense and Security Forces on one of [the bloc’s] members,” one of the putschists said in a statement read on national television late Thursday.
Also on Thursday, the junta announced ending the functions of the country’s ambassadors to Nigeria, which is leading ECOWAS efforts on dialogue, as well as neighboring Togo, the US and France.
Bazoum speaks up
In a Washington Post opinion plea published in the early hours of Friday, Bazoum appealed for an end to the coup, stressing it reverses the security and prosperity his administration had worked hard to achieve since he was elected in 2021.
Describing himself as a “hostage” at the time of writing the letter, Bazoum warned of the expansion of military rule in the Sahel region, if Niger is to follow in Mali and Burkina Faso’s footsteps. Both countries have experienced coups in recent years.
He also warned of Russia’s growing influence in the region via the Wagner group.
“In our hour of need, I call on the US government and the entire international community to help us restore our constitutional order,” Bazoum wrote.
lo,rmt/sms (AFP, AP)