Liberia: ECOWAS Military Chiefs Meet on Niger Crisis



-Potential Military Intervention Likely

Military chiefs from ECOWAS countries, including Liberia , are meeting in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss potential military intervention in Niger in order to restore ousted President Mahomanded Bazoum.

The meeting, which began Wednesday, and is expected to end Friday, will produce a working document that will be used by ECOWAS heads of government to decide the bloc’s next line of action on the Nigerien crisis.

President George Weah and his ECOWAS counterparts on Sunday warned Niger's military rulers this week to reinstate Bazoum within a week or expect military intervention.

Nigeria’s military spokesperson, Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, told the BBC: “The military solution will be the last option.”

“The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security.

“There is a need to demonstrate that we cannot only bark but can bite,” he told reporters in Abuja.

Musah’s remarks come as ECOWAS has sent a delegation to Niger  led by former Nigerian military leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, who was expected in Niamey on Wednesday to start talks with the military government.

Other details about the mission remain unclear. Amos Lungu, spokesperson for the ECOWAS Commission, did not respond to Al Jazeera’s requests for comment.

The Niger military government has, however, warned against any military actions, saying they would be bloody. 

The chiefs who have so far arrived in the country include those of Togo, Ghana, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Senegal, Liberia, Guinea, Gambia, Côte d’Ivoire, CaboVerde, and Benin.

Bazoum, Niger's first democratically elected President since Independence France in 1960, has been held by the military since he was overthrown last Wednesday. 

The incident has drawn widespread concern from ECOWAS nations, which have a vested interest in preserving stability and democratic norms in the region. 

The potential military intervention reflected would be within its rights and other international laws, which give the bloc power to intervene in member states to address threats to peace, security, and stability.

The Niger coup violates the ECOWAS protocol on good governance and democracy, which empathically expressed zero tolerance for the constitution change of a government. 

Niger’s neighbors Burkina Faso and Mali have issued a joint statement saying that they would regard any military intervention in Niger as a declaration of war on them. The junta in Guinea has also joined the call.

On Sunday, the regional organization ECOWAS threatened to use force to reinstate Niger’s elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who was deposed in a coup on July 26.

But Burkina Faso and Mali said that in such a scenario, they would come to the defense of their eastern neighbor. They would also quit ECOWAS.

The warning from the two junta-led countries marks a significant twist that could escalate the volatile regional situation.

They said such a move would be disastrous and destabilizing.

Both countries have severed ties with the West and embraced alliances with Russia. 

Like Niger, they were colonized by France and have been fighting extremists in the Sahel.

Meanwhile, in Sierra Leone, Liberia’s next door neighbor, police have claimed to have arrested several people, including unnamed senior military officers, for “working to undermine the peace and tranquility of the state.” 

In a statement, police said those arrested were planning violent protests scheduled for August 7-10. 

Police accused unnamed individuals “at home and abroad” of plotting to undermine peace in the country.

They said they were “fully in control” and urged Sierra Leoneans to remain peaceful and go about their normal businesses.

Unease has gripped the West African country since the controversial re-election of President Julius Maada Bio on 24 June.

On July 5, Bio accused Western countries of creating confusion in the country after they expressed concern over the conduct of the election in June.

The country has enjoyed relative peace since the end of its 11-year-long civil war in 2002.