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Ecowas leaves open the option of military intervention against coup plotters in Niger

The musicians headline in the Nigerian newspaper This day also struggled on Friday double the message which was shared with the world by the West African bloc Ecowas just hours before. “Ecowas is deploying the troops. Ready for democracy, peace”. tight fist with an outstretched hand.

After the unsuccessful threats almost two weeks ago with a military intervention in Niger, the bloc is taking the next step. He prepares troops that can invade the country to dislodge the military that took power there. All previously imposed sanctions, which weigh on Niger financially, remain in force.

Him too: The coup in Niger pits West African leaders against each other

The word anointed

A few hours earlier, at the beginning of the summit in Abuja, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, also the president of ECOWAS, started. calming words. “It is important that diplomatic negotiations and dialogue guide our approach,” he said in his hoarse voice. But he also emphasized: “there is no option on the table” to restore democracy in Niger.

Regional leaders are increasing the pressure again. Of necessity, they say: General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the new strong man of Niger, still does not want to give up. A disastrous war for the already unstable Sahel thus comes closer.

We have not yet reached that point and the question remains whether the leaders will let it get to that point. The military seems to be guessing not. They left an ultimatum earlier on the block than without even blinking an eye on Sunday. As in saying: bluff. The deadline passed and no action was taken. An Ecowas delegation that wanted to speak in Niamey was not welcomed afterwards.

Biggest advantage

Meanwhile, Tchiani is holding on to his biggest asset: President Mohamed Bazoum. He and his family are still imprisoned in his residence by Tchiani’s presidential guards. The general threatened to kill Bazoum if the troops crossed the border, AP news agency reported based on diplomatic sources.

“He is being held as a hostage. I see this as horror,” Alassane Ouattara, president of the Ivory Coast, told journalists after the summit. “The Goutchis may decide to leave tomorrow, then there will be no intervention. But we are determined to restore President Bazoum to office.” His own country will provide a battalion of “850 to 1,000 soldiers,” the president said.

Ecowas President and Nigeria President Bola Ahmed Tinibu met with other African leaders on Thursday about the coup in Niger.
photo by Kola Sulaimon/AFP

“The Chiefs of Staff are authorized to begin this operation as soon as possible.”

It sounds easier than that. In addition to the logistics and costs that have delayed previous interventions, there are legal questions about its legitimacy, even with the support of the African Union. Other countries had not yet made specific commitments on Friday. Another factor: military intervention is not popular at home.

Him too: Activists in Niger support military coup: ‘The real enemy is France’

Nigeria’s president, Tinubu, met with a reluctant Senate last weekend, where he needs a majority to send troops. The army already has its hands full fighting the jihadists and thugs in Nigeria itself, they argued. Moreover, such an intervention would make war with the “people of the brothers”; Niger and Nigeria share a long border where language, ethnicity and trade overlap.

For Tinubu, it is not only a matter of principle – when he took office as the president of Ecowas he promised an end to the epidemic of coups in the region – it is also a personal one. His political career began in the 1990s with his opposition to (and imprisonment by) the military that ruled Nigeria. “Nobody wants war,” his chief of staff said Thursday. But Tinubu added: “If we don’t do it, nobody will for us

A subsidiary of the newly established National Council for the Protection of the Country, which now holds sway in the country.
AFP photo

Maybe he can still convince the Senate, said Nnamdi Obasi, researcher at the International Crisis Group in Abuja. “But even if these forces can bring Bazoum back to power in a short time, there is a risk of ending up in a situation where Bazoum does not have the authority to rule the country without them.”

The thousands of Nigerians who took to the streets once again in Niamey on Friday to support the putschists is a poor sign. “This is not about Bazoum. This is about a regime that is corrupt, silences opponents and gives our sovereignty [oud-kolonisator] France,” activist Mahamane Sanoussi said earlier against NRC on. “We will not accept foreign powers to interfere in this.”

France and the United States, both with large troops in Niger, rallied behind Ecowas on Friday. It is not clear whether they will support the intervention other than diplomatically. The bloc’s chiefs of staff will meet in Ghana on Saturday. Without the army chiefs of Guinea, Burkina Faso and Mali; after their coup they were stopped by the bloc. The last two are threatening to support Niger’s military in the event of an invasion.

“If this continues,” warned Obasi, “Ecowas will collapse.”

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