Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are set to gather for an emergency summit on Thursday to address the ongoing crisis sparked by the military coup in Niger. The coup, which took place two weeks ago, led to the toppling of President Mohamed Bazoum’s government. While ECOWAS seeks a diplomatic solution to the situation, it has not ruled out the possibility of using force to resolve the crisis.
The emergency summit, scheduled to be held in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, is expected to yield significant decisions aimed at restoring democratic governance in Niger, according to a statement released by the 15-nation organization on Tuesday. The summit comes after the military leaders in Niger defied an ultimatum given by ECOWAS to reinstate President Bazoum within a specified timeframe.
Since 2020, the West African bloc has been grappling with a series of coups among its member states, raising concerns about political stability and security in the region. ECOWAS issued an ultimatum to the coup leaders, demanding the restoration of President Bazoum or face the potential use of force. However, the deadline passed without any action from the military leaders.
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In a display of defiance against international pressure, the military leaders announced a new government through a televised decree. The newly appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, will lead a 21-member administration, with generals from the military governing council taking on key roles in the defence and interior ministries.
The possibility of a military intervention in Niger, a country grappling with economic challenges and ranking among the world’s poorest nations, has raised debates within ECOWAS and triggered warnings from neighboring countries such as Algeria and Russia. Mali and Burkina Faso, both of which have experienced military coups and are governed by military regimes, have expressed strong opposition to a potential intervention, viewing it as a declaration of war against their nations.
Efforts to mediate the crisis through diplomatic means have faced challenges. A joint team comprising representatives from ECOWAS, the United Nations, and the African Union aimed to visit Niger’s capital, Niamey, but the coup leaders rejected their bid on Tuesday.
Amidst these developments, a former emir of the Nigerian city of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, revealed that he had engaged with the coup leaders in an attempt to mediate the crisis. While not an official government emissary, Sanusi’s close friendship with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu has prompted hopes that his involvement could foster meaningful discussions between the leaders of Niger and Nigeria.
Nigeria, the current chair of ECOWAS, has taken a firm stance against the recent coup in Niger, which marks the fifth coup in the country since gaining independence from France in 1960. The outcome of the emergency summit will play a crucial role in determining the course of action to address the political instability and restore democratic governance in Niger.