ECOWAS will continue to pursue diplomatic initiatives towards the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger without compromising the option of the deployment of the regional standby force, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Alieu Touray has said.
Addressing a press conference in Abuja on Friday, 25th July 2023, the President said that the military option was decided by the Authority of Heads of State and Government in order to stem the contagion of coups d’état following the three successful and three failed attempted coups in the region.
“The current development in the Republic of Niger adds to the list of attempted coups d’état in the region so you can understand why the Heads of State and Government have decided that this is one coup too many and resolved that it was time to end the contagion,” he stated.
He added: “The decision of the Heads of State and Government to activate the clause providing for the application of legitimate force in Niger was reached only after due consideration of how political dialogue alone has unfortunately failed to deter coup plotters in the region.
“The precedents in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso are unsettling and underline the reason why the Community was obliged to take such a hard but legitimate stance, backed by the ECOWAS Community law which I must stress again was subscribed to by all the Member States, including Niger Republic.”
Dr. Touray said that In the interim, the region is employing other elements of its instruments and engaging with the military authorities as can be attested to by the several missions that have been fielded to the country and the joint efforts with partners, including the African Union and the UN, adding that the region is hopeful that these diplomatic efforts will yield the desired outcome and make the deployment of the force unnecessary
He recounted some of the diplomatic initiatives deployed by the Authority including the first mission sent by the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority on 26th July, 2023, the second mission led by H.E. Gen. Abdu Salaam and H.E. the Sultan of Sokoto which held a meeting at the airport as well as a planned joint mission involving the AU and the UN which was aborted.
The ECOWAS Commission President added that “I am glad to report that the most recent mission was received by the President of the CNSP, the Prime Minister and members of CNSP. The mission also saw President Bazoum,”
He characterized the coup in Niger as a “tragedy for our regional efforts at consolidating democracy after the political crises of the 90’s as exemplified by the civil wars in Liberia and Sierra Leone,” emphasizing that “through the collective efforts of our community, the region was stabilized and the foundation for democracy and the rule of law restored. Indeed, until about three years ago, all leaders in the ECOWAS region were democratically elected.”
The President dismissed as ‘misrepresentation,’ reports that the Community has declared war on the Niger. HE noted the decision to deploy a regional force is in line with the spirit of obligations under the Community instruments to which the Republic of Niger is a signatory.
“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally that ECOWAS has neither declared war on the people of Niger nor is the deployment of the regional force an “act of invasion”
“The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government has only activated a full-scale application of sanctions which includes the use of legitimate force to restore constitutional order,” the President added.
In invoking the sanctions and related actions, Dr Touray said the Heads of State and Government of the Community relied on the provisions of the 1991 ECOWAS Declaration of Political Principles; the Revised ECOWAS Treaty of 1993, the 1999 ECOWAS Protocol relating to the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security as well as the 2001 Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
Moreover, Dr Touray clarified that the actions of the Community have been guided by a recognition of its obligation within the context of the spirit of solidarity and collective responsibility that underlines the ECOWAS integration arrangement, adding that ECOWAS recognized the Republic of Niger as an important member of the family which is neither targeted for destruction nor its people be allowed to suffer in the hands of enemies within or without.
“We are deeply concerned about the wellbeing of the people and the country as historically, military administrations have not demonstrated any capacity to better deal with complex political, social and security challenge as the security situation in countries under military government have rather deteriorated, as national territories are being lost to terrorists under their administration even though this has become the main justification for their intervention,” he added.
He therefore urged the military junta to reconsider its action and listen to the voice of reason as the regional leaders will not condone a coup d’état, reminding them of their responsibility for the security and safety of President Bazoum, members of his family and government.
Responding to questions from various journalists, Dr Touray said ‘’whatever the community is doing, we are doing it for the ordinary brothers and sisters in Niger who have no contribution to this. It is ECOWAS role to serve and work for the ordinary members of the community. Nigeriens remain our brothers and sisters and whatever is being done is being done in their interest’’.
He added; ‘’we remain on the side of the people of Niger. We just think it is fair for them to enjoy democracy, freedom that we are all enjoying. The people of Niger deserve to move freely within the community. So whatever ECOWAS is doing is being done in the interest of the people of Niger and the people of the ECOWAS region’’.