Melinda Carrington
Thu, Aug 10, 2023 5:50 PM

West African Bloc Prioritizes Political Solution in Niger Crisis despite Military Threats

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West African Bloc Prioritizes Political Solution in Niger Crisis despite Military Threats
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is focusing on a political solution to the crisis in Niger, despite the new military junta's hardline stance. Ecowas President Bola Tinubu emphasized the importance of prioritizing diplomacy at the Niger crisis summit held in Abuja. While a military intervention has not been ruled out, Ecowas has threatened the coup leaders with restoring the constitutional order by force if they refuse to reinstate democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum. The junta, however, has shown no intention of relinquishing power or backing down.

Despite the uncompromising stance of the new military junta in Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) is primarily focused on finding a political solution to the crisis in the country. Ecowas President and Nigerian leader Bola Tinubu stressed the need to prioritize diplomacy at the start of the Niger crisis summit in Abuja on Thursday. However, the 15-member states of Ecowas have not ruled out the possibility of restoring the constitutional order in Niger through a military intervention.

Ecowas has threatened the coup leaders with a military intervention if they refuse to reinstate democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who is currently being held under house arrest. So far, the junta in Niamey has shown no willingness to relinquish power or negotiate. On the contrary, the coup leaders, who took control of Niger at the end of July, announced a new government in the early hours of Thursday. They read out a list of 21 individuals who are set to become ministers on state television.

Despite this, Ecowas President Tinubu expressed a willingness to engage in dialogue: "We must involve all parties involved, including the coup leaders, and convince them through serious discussions to renounce power and reinstate President Bazoum," he stated in his opening speech. "It is our duty to explore all avenues of engagement in order to quickly restore constitutional government in Niger." Tinubu also emphasized that the July 26 coup posed a threat to the stability of West Africa as a whole.

RECEPTION OF ECOWAS ENVOYS

Prior to the summit, an Ecowas representative emphasized that military intervention should only be a last resort. However, several international diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict have failed to make a breakthrough in recent days. There was a glimmer of hope on Wednesday when the coup leaders received envoys from Ecowas President Tinubu. However, the subsequent announcement of a new government indicates that the junta is determined to push through its agenda.

The list of new cabinet members was read out by Mahamane Roufai Laouali, who was introduced as the government's Secretary-General. The future government is expected to be about half the size of the ousted one, with 21 ministers. Key portfolios such as Defense and Interior will be held by leaders of the coup. The junta in Niger is supported by the military governments in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Initially, Ecowas gave the junta a week to restore President Bazoum to his position and reinstate the constitutional order. However, the coup leaders allowed the deadline to pass on Sunday night without complying. Instead, on Sunday, they ordered a temporary closure of Niger's airspace. As a result, international flights in the area were canceled or redirected.

FEARS OF FURTHER DESTABILIZATION

According to Bazoum's party, the president is being held along with his family members at the presidential residence, where there is no electricity or running water. Fresh food supplies have not been delivered for days. United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed concern and once again called for Bazoum's release and reinstatement. Niger is considered one of the few countries in the region that is friendly towards the Western world.

If a military conflict were to occur, it could lead to further destabilization in West and Central Africa, where seven coups have already been carried out in the past three years. The Sahel region, which is plagued by hunger and violence, is one of the poorest regions in the world. Thousands of people have lost their lives, and millions are displaced, with many seeking refuge in Europe. In addition to its leading role in combating Islamists in the region, Niger is strategically and economically important to Europe, the United States, China, and Russia due to its uranium and oil reserves.

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

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