The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced the activation of standby forces as a contingency plan should diplomatic efforts fail to address the recent coup in Niger. This move comes as West African leaders intensify their discussions and strategies to restore democracy in the country following the removal and detention of President Mohamed Bazoum by military generals last month.
During a two-day meeting of West African army chiefs in Ghana’s capital, Accra, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, disclosed that the bloc has set a tentative “D-day” for potential military intervention. The specifics of the intervention’s timing were not disclosed.
Musah emphasized that ECOWAS remains committed to peaceful engagement with Niger’s military leadership, stating that a mediation mission is still being readied. He underlined that the standby forces would only be deployed as a last resort, should diplomatic negotiations fail to produce the desired outcome.
The ECOWAS defense chiefs gathered to finalize the details of the potential military operation to restore President Bazoum in the event that ongoing discussions with the coup leaders prove ineffective.
Musah stated, “Let no one be in doubt that if everything else fails, the valiant forces of West Africa, both the military and the civilian components, are ready to answer the call of duty.”
Since the coup on July 26, the international community, including the United Nations and ECOWAS, has called for the reinstatement of Bazoum, but the military officers have defied these appeals.
Most of ECOWAS’s member states, with the exception of Cape Verde and those also under military rule (Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea), are prepared to contribute to the joint force if required.
Niger’s strategic significance, including its uranium and oil reserves and its role in the fight against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS, has elevated concerns over the country’s stability and governance. While ECOWAS has a history of grappling with military takeovers in the region, its efforts to address the situation in Niger reflect a desire to prevent further destabilization in the Sahel region, which is already grappling with security challenges.
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