ECOWAS has approved a military attack on Niger “as soon as possible” to remove the new leadership and restore Western-backed President Mohamed Bazoum, who was ousted in a coup last month, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said Thursday.
“The Chiefs of Staff will have other conferences to finalize things but they have the agreement of the Conference of Heads of State for the operation to start as soon as possible,” said Ouattara after attending the bloc’s emergency summit in Nigeria.
Ouattara announced that his country will be providing an armed force of 850 to 1,100, alongside Nigeria and Benin, adding that other West African countries will also be contributing.
Earlier today, ECOWAS members said they would be deploying a “standby force” as part of their plan to carry out military action against neighboring Niger.
“We are determined to restore president Bazoum to his functions,” Ouattara said.
Before leaving the summit, Ivory Coast’s leader said that ECOWAS “has intervened in the past, in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, in Gambia and Guinea-Bissau” when security was allegedly threatened in these countries.
Today we have a similar situation in Niger, and I like to say that ECOWAS cannot accept this.
ECOWAS had previously given the coup leadership in Niger a one-week deadline – which ended last Sunday – to surrender to the bloc’s terms or else face a military operation. The delayed action came amid reports of a number of internal hurdles within the countries of the West African bodies – most notably the Senate opposition in Nigeria.
Amid these threats, Mali and Burkina Faso stated that any attack on Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them.
The bloc announced on Tuesday that it has the capacity to deploy 25,000 troops in order to invade Niger and reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum back in power.
On Wednesday, Antinekar Al-Hassan, a political advisor of Bazoum, warned that a military attack on Niger might bring all of Africa up in flames, stressing that ECOWAS is unaware of the price of such a mistake.
In a joint letter dated August 8, former presidents and prime ministers of Niger urged ECOWAS to lift sanctions on the country and resort to diplomatic approaches to resolve the escalating tensions.
“We… are asking you to lift sanctions against the people of Niger and use diplomatic and political means to find together with the military peaceful and constructive solutions to this serious crisis suffered by our country,” the letter read.