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ECOWAS delegation arrives in Niger after threatening military action

Diori Hamani International Airport in the Niger capital Niamey. (File photo by AFP)

The West African diplomatic mission arrived in Niger a day after issuing an ultimatum to the military leaders to reinstate the pro-Western president who was toppled on July 26.

The delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which, according to analysts, represents Western interests in the region, arrived in the Niger capital, Niamey, on Saturday.

African American journalist and political analyst Abayomi Azikiwe told Press TV recently that the US-led NATO military alliance is behind the ECOWAS military threats against Niger.

"The ECOWAS are merely code words which indicate that Washington favors a return to the status quo under ousted President Mohamed Bazoum," he stated. 

A plane carrying the delegation landed in the capital Niamey at around 1:00 pm (1200 GMT), a day after the bloc's military chiefs said they were ready to intervene to reinstate the ousted President.

Niger's governing military council confirmed the arrival of the ECOWAS representatives, headed by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar.

Sources close to ECOWAS and Bazoum said the delegation should seek diplomatic mediation with the junta leaders who have taken power in Niger.

A previous ECOWAS delegation led by Abubakar earlier this month tried and failed to meet Bazoum and the coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani.

A source close to the latest delegation said it would send "a message of firmness" to the army officers and meet Bazoum.

ECOWAS had earlier threatened that a task force was ready to be deployed in Niger; adding that a "peaceful solution" would continue to be sought.

The defense chiefs of the 15-member said on Friday that they are ready to act whenever an order is given.

"We are ready to go anytime the order is given," ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah said during the closing ceremony. "The D-Day is also decided, which we are not going to disclose."

Musah emphasized the ECOWAS delegation would pursue "the peaceful path to restoring constitutional order".  If the military leadership in Niger is open to a peaceful solution, ECOWAS will refrain from military intervention, he stressed. In any case, this is not "the preferred option" for the international community.

"The decision is that the coup in Niger is one coup too many for the region, and we are putting a stop to it at this time, we are drawing the line in the sand," Musah said.

In the meantime, neighboring 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."

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

Meanwhile, Bazoum has been in military detention for more than three weeks now.

Last week, protesters took to the streets of Niamey 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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