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17 Aug, 2023 00:21

Niger’s neighbors ‘activate’ intervention force

ECOWAS military chiefs have said they are finalizing plans to “restore order” in the West African state
Niger’s neighbors ‘activate’ intervention force

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced on Wednesday that it has begun mustering the ‘Standby Force’ intended to bring back ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to rule Niger.

The Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff (CCDC) “has commenced the activation” of the “Standby Force for the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” the organization said. The CCDC will meet in Accra, Ghana on Thursday and Friday to “finalize plans for the deployment of [the] Force.”

ECOWAS had previously said that its military chiefs had “finalized plans” for an intervention in Niger on August 4, and announced the activation of the force on August 10. According to the French broadcaster RFI, the bloc is mustering about 25,000 troops, most of them from Nigeria.

A group of military officers in Niamey arrested Bazoum on July 26 and proclaimed themselves a committee of national salvation, citing the government’s inability to defeat terrorist groups and its ongoing partnership with the former colonial power, France.

In an op-ed supposedly written from captivity and published in the Washington Post on August 4, Bazoum appealed to the “US government and the entire international community to help us restore our constitutional order.”

The African Union refused to endorse the ECOWAS intervention on Wednesday, according to French media. Nigeria’s senate has also declined to authorize military action, urging President Bola Tinubu to explore diplomatic means to resolve the crisis.

ECOWAS appears to be moving ahead despite the dissent from several members. Chad and Guinea have opposed both sanctions and intervention in Niger, while Burkina Faso and Mali said they would regard any military move against Niamey as a declaration of war against both of them.

The military government led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani has reportedly issued a call for volunteers to resist the ECOWAS invaders. Radio Nigeria reported that recruitment drives have been announced in Niamey, as well as regions bordering Nigeria and Benin. 

France and the US maintain several military bases in Niger, with around 1,000 American and 1,500 French troops currently in the country.