ECOWAS Mandates Swift Activation of Standby Force in Niger

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In a decisive move, West African leaders have escalated their response to the recent coup in Niger by ordering the immediate “activation” and “deployment” of a regional standby force. Assembled in Abuja, Nigeria, following the lapse of the one-week ultimatum issued to Niger’s military junta, the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) underscored the need for this force to reinstate constitutional order in the coup-affected nation.

Omar Alieu Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission, conveyed the call for deployment “to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.” The precise nature and scope of this force’s activation remain ambiguous. The statement, however, emphasized the bloc’s unwavering commitment to considering all options for achieving a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis.

Details pertaining to the size of the standby force remain uncertain. Following the announcement, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara pledged to contribute between 850 and 1,100 troops to supplement the deployment. President Ouattara revealed that these troops would swiftly prepare and mobilize to reinforce the standby force, marking a collective regional effort to address the situation.

Niger has been grappling with political upheaval since the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum by the presidential guard in a coup last month. In response, ECOWAS imposed sanctions and issued a stern ultimatum to the military junta, urging them to relinquish power within a week or risk potential military intervention.

The deadline, which expired on August 6, passed without any alteration in the prevailing political landscape. While ECOWAS leaders expressed a preference for a diplomatic resolution, they maintained that deploying troops remains a final recourse. The regional bloc is resolute in enforcing the measures and principles outlined during the extraordinary summit held on July 30, 2023, which encompassed robust sanctions against Niger’s military junta.

President Touray underscored the potential repercussions for member states impeding the peaceful resolution of the crisis through their actions. He warned of consequences for those obstructing diplomatic efforts indirectly.

In a separate interview, President Ouattara disclosed that extensive dialogue had been pursued by all ECOWAS heads, only to be met with resistance from the junta, which retained the president as a “hostage.” As the situation unfolds, Ouattara emphasized the necessity for action, emphasizing that military intervention is necessary to prevent the continuance of such actions.

Mali and Burkina Faso, both governed by military regimes, have demonstrated solidarity with Niger’s junta and cautioned that any intervention could be construed as an act of war. Guinea has also lent its support to Niger. In response to the brewing crisis, Niger’s armed forces have shown indications of preparation for potential military intervention, including the influx of troops from various regions of the country into the capital.

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