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West African bloc says ‘we are going into Niger’ if all else fails

West African bloc says ‘we are going into Niger’ if all else fails
A vehicle drives past trucks parked on the side of the road near the border town of Malanville, Benin, 16 August 2023. Hundreds of trucks carrying produce and commercial goods have been stuck in the border town of Malanville following the closure of the border between Benin and Niger, amid sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) following the coup in Niger. EPA-EFE/DIDIER ASSOGBA

The West African bloc ECOWAS stands ready to intervene militarily in Niger should diplomatic efforts to reverse a coup there fail, a senior official told army chiefs who were meeting in Ghana on Thursday to discuss the details of a standby force.

ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security Abdel-Fatau Musah accused the junta that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 of “playing cat-and-mouse” with the bloc by refusing to meet with envoys and seeking justifications for the takeover.

“The military and the civilian forces of West Africa are ready to answer to the call of duty,” he told assembled chiefs of defence staff from member states.

He listed past ECOWAS deployments in Gambia, Liberia and elsewhere as examples of readiness.

“If push comes to shove we are going into Niger with our own contingents and equipment and our own resources to make sure we restore constitutional order. If other democratic partners want to support us they are welcome,” he said.

Musah strongly criticised the junta’s announcement that it had elements to put Bazoum, who is being detained, on trial for treason. The United Nations, European Union and ECOWAS have all expressed concerns over the conditions of his detention.

“The irony of it is that somebody who is in a hostage situation himself…is being charged with treason. When did he commit high treason is everybody’s guess,” Musah said.

(Additional reporting by Francis Kokoroko, Media Coulibaly, Anait Miridzhanian; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

 

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