West African bloc: Military intervention in Niger is a “last resort”
Defense chiefs from the West African regional political and security bloc said military intervention in junta-ruled Niger was a “last resort”, as European nations continued to evacuate their foreign nationals after last week’s coup against its democratically elected president.
The 15-country “Ecowas” regional bloc – the Economic Community of West African States – also threatened to use force to suppress the coup in Niger after an ultimatum was issued to those behind it to reinstate Mohamed Bazoum as president and restore the constitution and democratic institutions.
The Nigerian chief of staff said the threat of military intervention was serious.
“We are ready and as soon as we receive the order to intervene, we will do so,” Christopher Musa told Radio France Internationale’s Hausa Service.
Speaking in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, at the start of a three-day meeting, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Abdulfato Musa, said the threat of military action should be seen as a last resort designed to tighten force.
Negotiations with the military council
The military option is the last option on the table, and the last resort, but we must prepare for possibility.
“There is a need to prove that we can not only bark but also bite,” he told reporters in Abuja.
Envoys from ECOWAS, led by former Nigerian President Abdessalam Abubakar, have been dispatched to Niamey, the capital of Niger.
The response of ECOWAS and Nigeria, the bloc’s main power, is seen as a major test for the grouping amid a series of coups in the region, Russian-sponsored intervention and a growing jihadist insurgency, which members fear is spilling across borders.
The UN special envoy for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simao, said in a briefing that “the various member states are preparing to use force if necessary.”
The M62 movement, a local activist group that supports the coup, called on Niamey residents to “mobilize” and close the airport until foreign military forces leave the country.
Niger – a poor country despite being one of the world’s largest sources of uranium – is considered by the United States and European allies as a key base in the struggle against armed jihadist groups in the Sahel, with foreign forces present there.
Russia called for an “urgent national dialogue” in Niger on Wednesday and said threats of intervention were unhelpful. “It is very important to prevent a further deterioration of the situation in the country,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova told reporters.