ECOWAS has stated that troops across the region are ready to enter Niger and restore democratic rule.
After a two-day meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, the West African sub-regional bloc said there was political will among member states who were also ready to contribute their own troops and equipment for the mission to restore democratic rule in Niger,where the presidential guard,a detachment of the military,toppled the President, Mohamed Bazoum,on July 26,this year.
“We are not going to Niger to wage war,rather to restore constitutional order,” the Commissioner in charge of Political Affairs,Peace and Security at the ECOWAS Commission,Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah,said at a press conference at Burma Camp on Friday.
He stressed that member states across the region had committed resources and equipment needed to undertake the mission and “we are ready to go anytime the Heads of State give the order”.
Dr Musah further said the Heads of State of the member states were satisfied with the reports presented by the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff and the troops across the region were ready to respond to the call to duty.
The two-day extraordinary meeting of the military chiefs was called to plan the path of action for an intended military operation to restore democratic rule in Niger,following the ousting of President Bazoum last month.
In addition to Ghana,the host country of the meeting,and Nigeria, which chairs the group,were the CDSs from Liberia,Benin,Cote d’Ivoire and Sierra Leone.
Others were Togo,Senegal and The Gambia.
Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger,which are under sanctions and have been suspended by ECOWAS for the military takeovers in recent times, were all absent.
Cabo Verde and Guinea Bissau, officials said,were also absent with genuine reasons.
All options open Dr Musah said the ECOWAS Standby Force would only stand down the military operation,if the coup leaders wished to take a peaceful pathway, adding that all options were on the table.
He explained that the military option was not ECOWAS’s preferred option but the regional bloc was obliged to do so due to the intransigence and obstacles the junta leaders continued to put in the way of negotiations.
The Political Affairs, Peace and Security Commissioner pointed out that whereas ECOWAS had not shut its doors to the coup leaders in Niger, it would also not engage in any endless dialogue,considering the manner in which the junta had approached the diplomatic attempts.
“If we must engage,the dialogue must be fruitful and its objectives must be to the restoration of constitutional order in the shortest possible time,” he said, and demanded the release of the deposed President Bazoum, his family and members of his Cabinet,who, he said, were being held hostage by the coup leaders.
Dr Musah insisted that ECOWAS was a body governed by rules and its members had signed on to protocols to cede part of their sovereignty to the bloc in the interest of regional cohesion and development.
The actions of ECOWAS were, therefore,in defence of its principles and rules.
“The Niger coup is one too many and we are drawing the line to ensure that the West African sub-region gets back to constitutional normalcy,” Dr Musah maintained, emphasising that “we are doing this by ourselves and for posterity”.
The Chairman of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff, who is also the Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria, Gen. Christopher Musa, who started the remarks, said the committee had sincere,fair and considerate discussions based on the fact that the military chiefs wanted to ensure peace and security within the sub-region.
He said the decisions arrived at would be presented to the ECOWAS Commission for implementation.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government charged the Committee of Chiefs of the Defence Staff to prepare aplan for a possible military intervention to topple the military junta and restore democratic rule in Niger.
At its Extraordinary Meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday, August 10, this year on the Niger situation, the Authority of Heads of State and Government directed the Committee of Chiefs of the Defence Staff to immediately activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements.
The meeting, at the instance of the ECOWAS Chairman, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is also the President of Nigeria,was attended by nine Heads of State,including President Akufo-Addo.
The authority also gave the order for the committee of army chiefs to deploy the ECOWAS Standby Force to restore constitutional order in Niger.
It further directed the President of the ECOWAS Commission to monitor the implementation of sanctions on Niger, which included closing all borders to Niger and freezing the assets of all persons connected to the activities of the military junta.
The authority warned “member states who,by their action,directly or indirectly,hinder the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences of their action before the community”.
A communique issued at the end of the Abuja meeting called on the African Union to endorse all the decisions taken by ECOWAS on the situation in Niger.
It further urged all partner countries and institutions,including the United Nations, to support ECOWAS in its efforts to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order in Niger in conformity with its normative instrument.
Niger is a landlocked country that shares borders with Nigeria and Benin to the south; Burkina Faso to the south west; Mali to the west; Algeria and Libya to the north and Chad to the East.
The former French colony has Hausa as the predominant tribe making up 55.4 per cent of the 25.2 million population,Zama and Songhai making up 21 per cent,Tuareg 9.3 per cent and Fula 8.5 per cent.
The other smaller tribes of the circular state are Kanuri,4.7 per cent, with Toubou,Arab,Gurma and others making up less than 0.5 per cent each.
Niger exports raw agricultural products such as onions as well as minerals,including uranium ore.