John Doe
Thu, Aug 10, 2023 10:45 PM

Ecowas Orders Activation of Standby Force to Restore Democracy in Niger

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Ecowas Orders Activation of Standby Force to Restore Democracy in Niger
The West African bloc Ecowas has ordered the activation of a standby force to potentially intervene against the junta in Niger and restore democracy. Ecowas seeks a peaceful resolution but is open to using force if necessary. The threat of invasion will keep tensions high in Niger, a key ally in fighting Sahel's Islamist insurgents. The junta defied a deadline to step down, prompting Ecowas to enforce sanctions. While the deployment of a regional force might take time, negotiations remain possible. Leaders at the Ecowas summit emphasized the importance of returning democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum to power.

ABUJA - The West African bloc Ecowas on Thursday ordered the activation of a standby force for possible use against the junta that took power in Niger in July, saying it wanted a peaceful restoration of democracy but all options including force were on the table.

The threat of an invasion, though not specific, will keep tensions high in and around Niger, a uranium producer that until the coup was an important ally of the West in the fight against Islamist insurgents devastating the Sahel region.

The junta had defied an Aug 6 deadline to stand down set by Ecowas, instead closing Niger's airspace and vowing to defend the country against any foreign attack.

After a summit of its heads of state in the Nigerian capital Abuja, the bloc pledged to enforce sanctions, travel bans and asset freezes on those preventing the return to power of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

"No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort," said Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the Ecowas chairman.

"I hope that through our collective effort we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger," he said.

"All is not lost yet."

An official communique was read out which included a resolution asking the bloc's defence chiefs to "activate the Ecowas Standby Force with all its elements immediately".

Another resolution spoke of ordering "the deployment of the Ecowas Standby Force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger", immediately followed by another that spoke of restoring such order "through peaceful means".

Security analysts say a regional force could take weeks or longer to assemble, potentially leaving room for negotiations.

The Ecowas statement did not spell out how the force would be funded, which countries would participate or how many troops and what hardware they could contribute.

"There's probably still a lot that has not been agreed to, such as timeline and red lines and what to do in contingency situations if things continue to go sour," said Ms Aneliese Bernard, director of consultancy Strategic Stabilisation Advisers.

Speaking to reporters on the sidelines of the summit, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said he considered the detention of Mr Bazoum by the junta "a terrorist act" that could not be tolerated.

"We want democracy in our sub-region. We do not accept, we will not accept coups d'etat. These putschists must go. If they don't let Bazoum out to be able to exercise his mandate, I think we should move ahead and get them out," he said.

Source of content: OOO News 2023-08-10 News

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