By Lisa Vives, Global Information Network
NEW YORK. 7 August 2023 (IDN) — Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, as the new head of the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS), is facing pressure from some neighbors and his own government to reject a military solution to the troubles in Niger, where military men recently removed President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger in a coup.
The 15-member Ecowas bloc last week gave the Niger coupsters a week to return Bazoum to power or face “all measures… [which] may include the use of force”.
“We are ready, and as soon as we receive the order to intervene, we will do so,” Christopher Musa told Radio France Internationale’s Hausa service on Monday.
But voices against a military solution are growing louder. Algeria has now joined Mali and Burkina Faso, categorically against any military intervention in Niger, Ennahar TV said, citing President Abdelmadjid Tebboune.
“A military intervention could ignite the whole Sahel region and Algeria will not use force with its neighbors,” Tabboune said in an interview with local media.
On Saturday, Nigeria’s Senate urged the government to look at “political and diplomatic options”, supporting other steps being taking by Nigeria and ECOWAS to reverse the coup while rejecting the option of a military action.
President of the Senate, Godswill Akpabio, suggested that the President did not seek the approval of the Senate to go to war in Niger Republic.
“The Senate has not asked for approval of the parliament, approval of this Senate, to go to war as being erroneously suggested in some quarters,” Mr Akpabio said.
“Rather Mr President and the Commander-in-Chief had expressed, and I quote: ‘a wish to respectfully solicit the support of the National Assembly in the successful implementation of the ECOWAS resolutions as outlined in the said communications.”
President Tinubu refuted the Senate’s claim, maintaining that the Senate had been informed of the measures which include “military build-up and deployment of personnel for military intervention to enforce compliance of the military junta in Niger should they (the coupists) remain recalcitrant.”
Not following the military solution may create new problems, said Djiby Sow, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies in Dakar. “If (the West Africa countries) don’t go in, it will be a major problem of credibility. They have laid down a red line.”
Meanwhile, ECOWAS has imposed a no-fly zone on Niger and has been sending emissaries to the junta to restore democracy.
The ECOWAS ultimatum has been rejected by neighboring Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea – all countries of the Sahel belt across Africa.
Meanwhile, a message from President Bazoum, who has reportedly been locked up in the presidential palace by his own guards for ten days, appeared in an opinion column published in The Washington Post. He called on the U.S and other allies to help restore constitutional order.
“I write this as a hostage,” the President said in his opinion essay. “Niger is under attack from a military junta that is trying to overthrow our democracy.”
He warned that attacks from jihadist groups could increase and that Russia could expand its influence in the region if the coup leaders remain in power.
But sanctions could weaken the economy of Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, and could therefore stoke support for the junta and Islamist groups who offer money and shelter.
“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them (the military) that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Friday.
But he warned that “all the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out,” including how and when force would be deployed.
Back in Niger, Adama Oumarou of the capital Niamy told an Agence France Press reporter: “We’re going to fight for this revolution. We’re not going to retreat faced with the enemy, we’re determined… We were waiting for this coup for a long time. When it arrived, we breathed a sigh of relief.” [IDN-InDepthNews]
Photo: Members of Niger’s military junta is greeted by pro-coup supporters in Niamey, Niger, 6 August 2023. (Courtesy: AFP )
IDN is the flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.