Shortly after an unannounced visit by former emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, to reigning coupists in Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appeared to soft-pedal in its stance against the new military leaders, early Thursday, but at the close of the meeting of its heads of state later, ordered the deployment of a stand-by military force to the beleaguered country.
In a communique read by the ECOWAS Commission’s President Omar Alieu Touray, at the end the second Extraordinary Summit held at the Presidential Villa, Abuja Nigeria.
The Communique directed “the Committee of the chief of defense staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements immediately.
It also specifically ordered, “the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.”
Earlier in the day, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, says the regional bloc will continue to champion diplomacy and dialogue, as well as earnest discussions with all parties involved, to restore constitutional governance in the Republic of Niger.
At an earlier meeting two weeks ago, the ECOWAS leaders had given a 15-day deadline to the General Abdourahamane Tchiani-led coupists to restore sacked President Mohamed Bazoum or face the military wrath of the sub-regional bloc. The deadline lapsed last Sunday without incident.
However, according to a statement from Nigeria’s presidency, ECOWAS Authority chairperson spoke on Thursday in Abuja at the opening of the 2nd Extraordinary Summit on the socio-political situation in the Republic of Niger.
Sanusi’s successful meeting with the Niger coup leaders follows the failure by others.
He told journalistsat the Presidential Villa, “I came to brief him on the details of my discussions with leaders of Niger. We’ll continue to do our best to bring the two parties together to improve understanding.
“This is the time for public diplomacy, it’s not a matter that we leave to governments. All Nigerians, all Nigeriens need to be involved to find a solution that works for Africa, a solution that works for Niger, that works for Nigeria, and a solution that works for humanity….
“…I was not sent by the government. Government officials were aware I was going, but it was my personal initiative, using my personal contacts to get there and I will continue to do my best. It is my duty as a leader to do that.”
On Thursday, Tinubu spoke of the new ECOWAS position at the meeting: “In reaffirming our relentless commitment to democracy, human rights, and the well-being of the people of Niger, it is crucial that we prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach.
“We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum.
“It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger.” he said.
Underscoring the significance of the meeting, President Tinubu stressed the importance of a comprehensive evaluation of progress thus far.
”More specifically, as leaders of our respective nations, we must recognize that the political crisis in Niger not only poses a threat to the stability of the nation but also has far-reaching implications for the entire West African region.
”By remaining steadfast in our adherence to the principles of democracy, good governance, and the rule of law, we can restore peace, stability, and prosperity in the Republic of Niger, thereby fostering an environment conducive to growth and development for all,” he said.
Building upon commitments from the initial Extraordinary Summit held in Abuja ten days ago, President Tinubu recollected the ECOWAS leaders’ collective condemnation of the military coup that toppled Niger’s democratically elected government.
Highlighting the firm and coordinated efforts already undertaken, President Tinubu outlined ECOWAS’ deployment of mediation teams and Special Envoys to engage with key stakeholders within and beyond the region.
The Nigerian leader also pointed to the recent meeting of ECOWAS Chiefs of Defense Staff, the meeting of the Chiefs of Staffs Committee and the ECOWAS Commission’s memorandum on current developments in Niger as crucial sources of insight to guide the decisions of the Heads of State and Government at the meeting.
“Today’s Summit provides a significant opportunity to meticulously review and assess the progress made since our last gathering. It is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of our interventions and identify any gaps or challenges that may have hindered progress.
“It is only through this comprehensive assessment that we can collectively chart a new sustainable path towards lasting peace, stability, and prosperity in Niger,” President Tinubu emphasized.
The ECOWAS Chairperson expressed confidence that the 2nd ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit would be a defining moment in the journey towards a stronger, more resilient, and integrated West Africa.
He, therefore, rallied fellow leaders to seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact on the lives of Africans by fostering a future characterized by peace, progress, and prosperity.
The opening ceremony was attended by the Presidents of Guinea Bissau, Senegal, Cote ‘d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Benin, Sierra Leone, and Togo, while Liberia and the Gambia were represented by their Foreign Ministers.
Non-ECOWAS leaders, such as the Mauritanian and Burundian presidents, also attended.
However, after the meeting, the ECOWAS leaders said in their communique: “The Authority having considered the memorandum presented by the President of the ECOWAS commission on the current situation in the Republic of Niger, as well as ECOWAS engagement since the last extraordinary summit;
“And having considered the reports of the envoys of the chair, to Niger and various other places;
“Carefully considered the report and recommendations of the ECOWAS committee of chiefs of defense staff;
“extensively discussed the latest development in Niger since the last extra ordinary Summit held on 30th July 2023.
“Noted that all diplomatic efforts made by ECOWAS, in resolving the crisis have been defiantly repelled by the military leadership of the Republic of Niger;
“taking note of the expiration of the one week ultimatum given for the restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger decide as follows:
“A. Reiterates its strong condemnation of the attempted coup d’etat and the continued illegal detention of President Mohammed Bazoam, his family and members of his government;
“B. Further condemns the condition in which President Bazoum is being detained and hold the CNSP fully and solely responsible for the safety, security and physical integrity of President Bazoum, members of his family and government.
“C. Uphold all measures and principles agreed upon by the extra ordinary Summit held on Niger on 30th July 2023.
“D. Underscore the determination of the ECOWAS authority to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.
“E. Enforce all measures in particular border closures and strict travel bans and assets freeze on all persons or groups of individuals whose actions hinder all peaceful efforts aimed at ensuring the smooth and complete restoration of constitutional order.
“F. Warn member states who by their action directly or indirectly, hindered the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community.
“G. Underscore its continued commitment for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.