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West African bloc ECOWAS threatens to launch military intervention in Niger

Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had an extraordinary session on Niger in Abuja, on August 10, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

The West African bloc has conveyed its readiness to intervene militarily if diplomatic efforts fail to reverse the military coup that toppled the government of pro-West President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 in Niger.

In a meeting of army chiefs held on Thursday in Ghana, a senior official said that the Economic Cooperation of West African Nations (ECOWAS) is ready to military intervene in Niger.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah accused the Nigerien Army generals who ousted Bazoum of "playing cat-and-mouse" with the bloc by refusing to meet with envoys and seeking justifications for the takeover.

"The military and the civilian forces of West Africa are ready to answer to the call of duty," he told assembled chiefs of defense staff from member states.

Musah listed past ECOWAS deployments in Gambia, Liberia and elsewhere as examples of readiness.

"If push comes to shove we are going into Niger with our own contingents and equipment and our own resources to make sure we restore constitutional order. If other democratic partners want to support us they are welcome," he added.

Niger's neighbor Nigeria has warned of military intervention, saying it would "practically exacerbate the crisis and inflict further suffering on the innocent people in the Niger Republic and the wider region."

Mali and Burkina Faso have said an intervention would be tantamount to a declaration of war on them.

The ousted Niger president has been in military detention for more than three weeks now.

Thousands of anti-West protesters took to the streets last week to protest against plans by West African nations to deploy a military force to the country.

The protesters surrounded a French military base in Niger, protesting against years of military intervention by the European country in the West African nation.

Protesters rallied near the army base on the outskirts of the capital Niamey on August 11, shouting, "Down with France, down with ECOWAS.”

The Niger Army has accused the African nation's former colonizer France of being the force behind ECOWAS' determination to restore Bazoum to office to serve the West's interests. 

France was a colonial power in West Africa until 1960. Since independence, the European country has maintained trade relations and a military presence in the region. It has 1,500 soldiers in Niger. American and European soldiers are also stationed in Niger.

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