Above Photo: Men hold Niger and Russian flags as they gathers with thousands of anti-sanctions protestors in support of the junta in Niamey, Niger on August 3, 2023. Mahamadou Hamidou/Reuters.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday ordered the activation and deployment of a reserve force to “restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger” while also saying it would seek peaceful means to restore Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum.
After the summit, Alassane Ouattara, the president of Côte d’Ivoire (the Ivory Coast), said the West African bloc agreed to launch an intervention “as soon as possible” and said his country would provide a battalion of 850 to 1,100 soldiers.
The ECOWAS summit in Nigeria came a few days after the August 6 deadline that the West African bloc gave Niger’s junta to reinstate Bazoum. In the statement ordering the activation of the standby force, ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray also said the bloc would “keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.”
Also during the summit, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the chair of ECOWAS, threatened force but as a “last resort” and said he hoped “that through our collective effort, we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger.”
There’s no sign that the Niger junta intends to back down in the face of sanctions and threats from ECOWAS. It’s unclear at this point if ECOWAS intervention is imminent or if it will take time to activate the bloc’s standby force.
Intervention in Niger could turn into a major regional war as Burkina Faso and Mali have warned they would consider the action a declaration of war on them. The US and France have backed ECOWAS threats to oust the anti-Western Niger junta, and each has over 1,000 troops in the country.
ECOWAS is a 15-nation bloc, but several of its members have been suspended due to military coups, including Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and now Niger. The initial ECOWAS statement threatening military action in Niger was signed by Benin, Cabo Verde, Côte d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo.