Most of West Africa ready to join standby force in Niger: ECOWAS

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The President of Nigeria Bola Ahmed Tinubu, (C), and leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) meet to discuss the political situation in Niger, in Abuja, Nigeria, 10 August 2023 EPA-EFE/STR (EPA)

ECOWAS commissioner says all member states will join the force except those under military rule and Cape Verde.

The Economic Community of West African States has said most of its member states are ready to participate in a standby force that could intervene in Niger following a coup there late last month.

Defense chiefs from the 15-member regional bloc met in Accra on Thursday as part of latest efforts to overturn the ouster of Mohammed Bazoum, Niger’s president who was deposed in a July 26 coup.

All member states except those under military rule and Cape Verde are ready to participate in the standby force, ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah said on Thursday.

“Democracy is what we stand for and it’s what we encourage,” Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa said at the start of the two-day meeting in Accra. “The focus of our gathering is not simply to react to events, but to proactively chart a course that results in peace and promote stability.”

The meeting to discuss Niger’s crisis comes after an August 6 deadline passed for mutinous soldiers to release and reinstate Bazoum or face military intervention. Bazoum remains under house arrest with his wife and son in the capital, Niamey.

The bloc has long deliberated on the use of force which it described as a ‘last resort‘ for weeks due to several mediation teams it sent to Niamey and also due to a lack of consensus within its ranks.

Burkina Faso and Mali, which have experienced multiple coups since 2020, warned that any military intervention in Niger would be declared as an act of war, revealing a fracture in the region between its coastal countries and those in the volatile Sahel.

Guinea, which is also under military rule and which has condemned any external aggression, has refrained from making any other comments.

Al Jazeera’s Charles Stratford reporting from the Ghanaian border with Burkina Faso on Thursday had also said Ghanaian authorities were nervous about provoking its direct neighbour with which it has cultural ties and military cooperation agreements.

The top security body of the African Union met Monday to consider whether it would support military intervention but has yet to make public its decision.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council could overrule a military intervention if it felt that wider stability on the continent was threatened by it. If it rejects the use of force, there are few grounds under which ECOWAS could claim legal justification.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES

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