West African heads of state have asked the region’s defence chiefs to activate the ECOWAS Standby Force in readiness for any directive to restore constitutional rule in Niger.
At an emergency summit of ECOWAS heads of state in Abuja , Nigeria on Thursday to discuss responses to last month’s military takeover in Niger, after the coup leaders defied their earlier threat to use force to restore democracy, they said all options including the use of force remained on the table to restore constitutional order in Niger after the July 26 coup.
The bloc pledged to enforce sanctions and travel bans on those preventing the return to power of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. “No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort,” Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS chair, said at the end of the summit. “We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger in the journey towards peaceful democratic stability. “I hope that through our collective effort, we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger. All is not lost yet,” he said.
Since the July 26 overthrow of Niger’s democratic leadership, the coup plotters have refused to relinquish power and release detained Bazoum, ignoring an August 6 deadline from ECOWAS to reinstate him.
The meeting in Abuja began hours after Niger’s coup leaders appointed a new interim government.
Mahamane Roufai Laouali, cited as “secretary general of the government”, named 21 ministers without specifying any further government plans.
After Tinubu spoke, an official communique was read out which included a resolution asking the bloc’s defence chiefs to “activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements immediately”.
Another resolution spoke of ordering the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger, immediately followed by another that spoke of restoring such order through peaceful means.
ECOWAS defence chiefs last week drew up plans for possible military intervention in Niger, which the heads of state discussed during Thursday’s summit.
The summit communique did not indicate when or under what circumstances a deployment within Niger might take place. It is unclear if there were any representatives from Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger, whose military heads of state have sided with Niger, at the summit.
However, the presidents of Mauritania – a founding ECOWAS member which withdrew from the bloc in December 2000 – and Burundi were in attendance.