The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it has begun the activation of its standby force in Niger Republic to restore constitutional order.
ECOWAS defence chiefs who met in Accra, Ghana’s capital, released a statement on Wednesday to say they have commenced the activation of their standby force for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger.
“To this end, the ECOWAS committee of chiefs of defence staff will be having an extraordinary meeting in Accra, Ghana from 17th to 18th August 2023 to finalise plans for the deployment of the standby force,” the statement said.
ECOWAS said most of its member states are ready to participate in a standby force that could intervene in Niger.
Defence chiefs from the 15-member regional bloc met in Accra on Thursday as part of the latest efforts to overturn the removal of Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s president who was deposed in a July 26 coup.
ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Thursday that all member states except those under military rule and Cape Verde are ready to participate in the standby force.
“Democracy is what we stand for and it’s what we encourage,” Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa said at the start of the two-day meeting in Accra.
“The focus of our gathering is not simply to react to events, but to proactively chart a course that results in peace and promotes stability.”
The meeting to discuss Niger’s crisis comes after an August 6 deadline passed for mutinous soldiers to release and reinstate Bazoum or face military intervention. Bazoum remains under house arrest with his wife and son in the capital, Niamey.
The bloc has long deliberated on the use of force which it described as a “last resort” for weeks due to several mediation teams it sent to Niamey and also due to a lack of consensus within its ranks.
Burkina Faso and Mali, which have experienced multiple coups since 2020, warned that any military intervention in Niger would be declared as an act of war, revealing a fracture in the region between its coastal countries and those in the volatile Sahel.
Guinea, which is also under military rule and which has condemned any external aggression, has refrained from making any other comments.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council could overrule a military intervention if it felt that wider stability on the continent was threatened by it. If it rejects the use of force, there are few grounds under which ECOWAS could claim legal justification.