ECOWAS defence chiefs to meet on deployment of standby force to Niger

Defence chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra, Ghana, from August 17 to August 18 to finalize plans for the deployment of a standby force to Niger, according to the ECOWAS Commission.

The two-day meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defense Staff is a “follow-up” to the directive of ECOWAS leaders at their urgent meeting on the political situation in Niger held last week in Abuja, Nigeria, said the ECOWAS Commission in a statement.

ECOWAS leaders decided at the extraordinary summit last week to activate the regional standby force in response to the recent coup in Niger, while underscoring their continued commitment to restore constitutional order in the country through peaceful means.

The regional bloc did not provide details on the force to be deployed or the timetable for the action. Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu said sending troops into a member nation would be an significant move for the bloc and the use of force would be a “last resort.”

Experts have voiced doubts over the feasibility of the high-risk and difficult-to-implement military operation as the establishment of such a force depends on the will of the contributors, which requires a lot of negotiations between the member countries.

But it’s reported that the ultimate goal of ECOWAS engaging in a “show of force” is to try to bring the Niger coup leaders to the dialogue table.

Niger’s junta seized power on July 26. It has warned that it will kill deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum if any attempt is made to restore him to power via military intervention.

The coup, the third of its kind in West Africa in three years, has drawn condemnation from many African countries, which view the unconstitutional change of power as a threat to stability and development on the continent. The international community fears instability in the Sahel region would breed extremism.

The ECOWAS comprises Benin, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, and Togo. (With input from Xinhua)