West African mediators to meet coup leaders in Niger
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) dispatched a delegation to Niger on Wednesday to meet with military leaders who staged a coup that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum last week.
The mission is being led by Nigeria’s former military ruler, Abdulsalami Abubakar, as the regional Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff (CCDS) meet in Abuja to discuss the situation in Niamey.
ECOWAS has placed economic and financial sanctions on member-state Niger and threatened to authorize the use of force if the putsch leaders fail to reinstate the democratically elected Bazoum within seven days of this past Sunday.
However, speaking at the opening of the three-day CCDS meeting on Wednesday, Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, said that resorting to force to overturn the coup would only be considered as a final option.
“The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality. There is a need to demonstrate that we cannot only bark but can bite,” Musah told reporters in Abuja.
Meanwhile, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani has warned against a Western military intervention in Niger, saying such a move would be interpreted as a “new colonization.”
Russia has encouraged dialogue, arguing that the threat of military involvement will only worsen rather than resolve the situation.
On Monday, the juntas of Mali and Burkina Faso declared that any foreign military intervention in neighboring Niger would be regarded as a declaration of war against their respective countries.
The coup on July 26 has brought widespread condemnation to Niamey, a key ally of Western governments in the fight against jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region.
France, Niger's former colonizer, stated on Saturday that it has cut all development aid to the West African country. The EU and Germany have all taken similar measures against the junta, which is led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, suspending budgetary support, as well as all security cooperation activities.
The EU announced on Tuesday that it will evacuate its citizens from Niamey, while France and Italy reported earlier on Wednesday that they had flown some nationals to Paris and Rome.