On Thursday, West African leaders escalated their criticism against the leaders who orchestrated the coup in Niger, and they ordered the deployment of a regional standby force with the mandate of “activity” and “readiness” to restore constitutional order in the affected country.
After the expiration of a week-long ultimatum given to the military junta in Niger, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) convened in Abuja, Nigeria, have called for the “deployment of a standby force for the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” according to a statement read by ECOWAS Commission President Umaru Aliu Touré.
It wasn’t immediately clear what “readiness” and “activity” of the force meant. The statement also emphasized a firm commitment to “keep all options on the table for a peaceful resolution to the crisis.”
Niger has been engulfed in political turmoil since the end of the previous month when President Mohamed Bazoum was deposed in a coup by presidential guards. ECOWAS responded shortly after by imposing sanctions and issuing an ultimatum to the incumbent military regime: either step down within a week or face possible military intervention.
With no change in the political situation, the deadline came and went on Sunday, August 6. ECOWAS leaders have stated that they are prioritizing finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis and will resort to sending troops as a last resort.
The regional bloc “will maintain all the options and principles agreed upon in the extraordinary summit convened in Niamey, Niger on July 30, 2023,” which had decided for strong sanctions against the military junta.
Touré also issued a warning in his statement: “We also warn the stakeholders whose actions, direct or indirect, impede peaceful solutions to crises.”
Alassane Ouattara, the president of Ivory Coast, said that all of the ECOWAS leaders—a coalition of 15 nations—had attempted to communicate with the junta but had been assured they would hold the leader “as a hostage.”
He argued that the military junta should fight terrorists “and not attempt to kidnap a democratically elected president,” adding that he had instructed his country to prepare troops for an ECOWAS operation.
Mali and Burkina Faso, led by the military regime, have aligned themselves with Niger’s junta and warned that any military intervention would be viewed as a declaration of war. Guinea has also expressed its support for Niger.