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ECOWAS defense chiefs agree to deployment of force to Niger

West African regional bloc ready to deploy standby force to Niger

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Attendees of the extraordinary meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff pose for a group photo in Accra, capital of Ghana, Aug.17, 2023. The defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday gathered in Ghana's capital of Accra to discuss plans for the deployment of a standby force to Niger. TO GO WITH "ECOWAS defense chiefs meet to discuss plans for deployment of standby force to Niger" (Photo by Seth/Xinhua)
Attendees of the extraordinary meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff pose for a group photo in Accra, capital of Ghana, Aug.17, 2023. The defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday gathered in Ghana's capital of Accra to discuss plans for the deployment of a standby force to Niger. TO GO WITH "ECOWAS defense chiefs meet to discuss plans for deployment of standby force to Niger" (Photo by Seth/Xinhua)

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) standby force is ready to go to Niger, a senior official from the bloc said here late Friday.

During a press briefing after a two-day meeting of ECOWAS defense chiefs in Accra, Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, said that if a peaceful resolution to the recent coup in Niger cannot be found through other means, a standby force is prepared to intervene in Niger at any time.

Niger’s soldiers launched a coup and detained President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

On Thursday, the defense chiefs of ECOWAS gathered in Ghana’s capital of Accra to discuss plans to deploy a standby force to Niger. “We have already agreed and fine-tuned the logistics required for the intervention,” said the ECOWAS commissioner.

Musah said ECOWAS was adopting the military option due to the intransigence of the military junta in Niger, which had been putting obstacles in the way of a negotiated settlement of the impasse, adding that all options were still on the table for finding a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

“If they respond favorably to the request of the heads of state for dialogue, we are ready to accept. We will not engage in endless dialogue, but a fruitful one to restore constitutional order in the shortest possible time,” he added.

“All options are on the table, and our doors are open. We can stand down the military option if they meet us halfway for early restoration of constitutional order in the country because the military option is not our preferred option,” the official added.

The meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff on Thursday and Friday followed the directives of the bloc’s leadership at their last emergency session in Nigeria to discuss the political situation in Niger. Musah said an ECOWAS standby force is ready to move into Niger to “restore constitutional rule and end the impasse.”

At their last summit in Nigeria last week, ECOWAS leaders decided to activate the standby force while underscoring their continued commitment to restore constitutional order in the country through peaceful means.

Tensions are still escalating between Niger’s military junta and ECOWAS. Niger’s junta had allegedly told a top U.S. diplomat that Bazoum would be killed if neighboring countries attempted any military intervention to restore his rule.

The junta, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, has claimed it could do a better job than Bazoum’s government in protecting the nation from jihadi violence.

It’s still unclear when or where the ECOWAS force would deploy and how reports of the threats against Bazoum would affect a decision by ECOWAS to intervene.

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