ECOWAS voted on Thursday to deploy standby military troops to restore constitutional order in Niger, whose President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled last month.
Reacting to the decision, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said the possibility of military intervention cannot be ruled out, even though he had earlier called on the West African bloc to hold dialogue with the landlocked country’s junta.
Before the leaders went in for a meeting, Tinubu, the chairman of ECOWAS, said: “In reaffirming our relentless commitment to democracy, human rights, and the well-being of the people of Niger, it is crucial that we prioritise diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach.”
He told his counterparts to ensure that they engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in serious talks to persuade them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum. “It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger,” he said.
However, after the meeting, which took place at the Aso Rock Presidential Villa in Abuja, it turned out the regional bloc insisted that military action would not be taken off the table.
The West African heads of state also called on the African Union and the United Nations to endorse their actions to restore constitutional order in Niger.
Reading a communiqué after the meeting, Omar Alieu Touray, the president of ECOWAS, asked the military chiefs in the region to “activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately”.
The bloc also called on defence chiefs to “order the deployment of ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger”.
Reacting to the communiqué, President Tinubu said: “You will see from the communiqué of this extraordinary summit that no option is taken off the table including the use of force as the last resort. If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger towards peaceful and democratic stability in the country.”
Nigeria’s parliament and its northern Muslim establishment had kicked against any military intervention in Niger.
Niger’s putschists later refused to meet international mediators and formed a government in defiance of ECOWAS.
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