West Africa’s main bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, has established a date for a potential military intervention in Niger to restore democracy after President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled and detained by military generals last month.
In a recent meeting of West African army chiefs in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS agreed to activate a standby force if diplomatic efforts fail, although the exact date of intervention has not been disclosed.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, stated that the organization is prepared to initiate military action whenever the order is given. He emphasized that ECOWAS is still committed to peaceful engagement with Niger’s military leaders and is currently planning a mediation mission into the country.
The meeting of defence chiefs aimed to finalize the details of a potential military operation to reinstate President Bazoum if negotiations with the coup leaders prove unsuccessful. Musah made it clear that ECOWAS is determined to take action if all else fails and that both the military and civilian components of West Africa are prepared to answer the call of duty.
Since the military officers deposed President Bazoum on July 26, they have ignored calls from the United Nations, ECOWAS, and other international organizations to reinstate him.
The military intervention planned by ECOWAS is a reflection of its commitment to upholding democratic principles and ensuring the stability and security of its member states.
ECOWAS has a history of intervening in political crises within the region, with notable successes in resolving conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea-Bissau. The organization’s efforts have been instrumental in bringing about peace, stability, and democratic governance in these countries.
The majority of ECOWAS’s 15 member states are willing to make contributions to the joint force, with the exception of Cape Verde and those currently under military rule – Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. This information was shared by a representative of the bloc on Thursday.
President Bazoum, whose election in 2021 marked a significant moment in Niger’s troubled history, has been held along with his family at the president’s official residence since the coup. Concerns regarding his well-being and treatment during detention are growing within the international community.
ECOWAS has had limited success in preventing coups within the region. Both Burkina Faso and Mali have experienced two coups each within a span of three years.
The international community and ECOWAS view Niger’s coup as one too many. In response, not only has the bloc threatened potential military intervention, but it has also imposed strict economic and travel sanctions.
However, with time passing without any military action and negotiations at a standstill, Niger’s military leaders are solidifying their hold on power, leaving ECOWAS with limited options.
Any use of force would only exacerbate instability in West Africa’s impoverished Sahel region which is already engaged in a long-standing battle against armed groups for over a decade.
Niger also holds strategic importance beyond West Africa due to its reserves of uranium and oil. It serves as a crucial hub for foreign troops involved in combating armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS (ISIL).