By Yusef Taylor and Edward Francis Dalliah
After the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) issued a seven days ultimatum to Niger coup plotters on Sunday 30th July 2023, it instructed its Chief of Defense to meet immediately. The following week an ECOWAS delegation failed to meet Niger coup leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani on Thursday 3rd August 2023. The following day, ECOWAS Defense Chiefs met on Friday 4th August 2023.
According to Africa News, an ECOWAS delegation travelled to meet Niger coup leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani on Thursday 3rd August 2023, but left a few hours later without meeting him. General Tchiani, the head of Niger’s Presidential Guard, seized power on Wednesday 26th July 2023, and is currently holding Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum and family members hostage.
The ECOWAS delegation was led by former Nigerian Head of State Abdulsalami Abubakar and was tasked to present the ECOWAS Head of State demands which did not happen. ECOWAS Chairperson and President of Nigeria Bola Ahmed Tinubu had urged the delegation to do everything possible to ensure a conclusive amicable conclusion to the situation in Niger.
It now appears Niger coup leaders have rejected dialogue after they annexed diplomatic relations with Nigeria and France last week. ECOWAS issued an ultimatum for Niger coup plotters to reinstate constitutional order by Sunday 6th August 2023 or face military action. The deadline has now elapsed with Niger coup plotters gaining support from Mali, Guinea and Burkina to stay in power.
During the ECOWAS Defense Chiefs meeting on Friday 4th August 2023, ECOWAS Commissioner for Peace and Security, Ambassador Abdel Fatau Musah told military chiefs: “There is a steely determination by our heads of state and government to put an end to it [the coup] and to make an example of Niger, to make sure that never again are we going to allow the desruption of the regions’ move towards democratic consolidation in our region”.
Ambassador Abdel Musah added that “all the elements that would go into any eventual intervention has been worked out here and [are] being refined. ECOWAS is not going to tell the coup plotters when and where we are going to strike, that is an operational decision that will be taken by the heads of state”.
This is the first time that the ECOWAS has threatened military action against a member state for a coup with Mali, Guinea Conakry and Burkina Fasso all currently lead by military regimes. It’s understood that the ECOWAS Defence Chiefs have identified military action as the last option. Niger has now closed its airspace to all flights in anticipation of an ECOWAS attack.
Senegal has pledged to send troops to join any ECOWAS intervention in Niger while military juntas in Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea Conakry have pledged support to Niger’s coup leaders. Any military action will most likely be spearheaded by Nigeria, however, the Nigerian Senate has ruled that military action should not be used at this stage of the conflict. Niger is facing an electricity blackout after its neighbour Nigeria cut off 70% of its electricity supply.
During the meeting with ECOWAS Defence Chiefs, Nigerian Army Chief, Christopher Musa told his colleagues that they “must ensure that decisions taken [at the meeting] here are not merely toys but are transformed into tangible actions on the ground”.
It’s understood that France and the European Union are in support of ECOWAS’s military action with France currently having 1,500 troops in the Niger while United States has over 1,000 troops in Niger to curb the rising jihadist extremist threat in the region. The deadline for an ECOWAS military action elapsed on Sunday 6th August 2023.
Below is a link to our fourth publication on the Niger coup.