Following the decion of ECOWAS leaders to send a standby force to Niger as part of efforts to reinstall the country’s sacked President, Mr. Mohamed Bazoum, Russia, known to be backing the army generals who sacked him, at the weekend warned against a military intervention in Niger.
“We believe that a military solution to the crisis in Niger could lead to a protracted confrontation in that African country, and to a sharp destabilisation of the situation in the Sahara-Sahel region as a whole,” the Russian foreign ministry was quoted as saying in a report by global news agency, AFP.
At the same time, ECOWAS has said that it will hold Russia responsible if a private military contractor of the Eastern European nation, Wagner Group, gets involved in the crisis in the Republic of Niger.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, said this in an interview on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily Friday.
Musah noted that another West African nation had a separate arrangement with the private military security outfit from Russia.
The official of the West African bloc further warned the Wagner Group against violating human rights in the wake of the coup in the Niger Republic.
“The Wagner Group, apparently, is in Mali today. The Malian government says this is an agreement between them and the Russian Federation,” Musah said.
“We want to take them by their word, which means any sort of action that infringes on human rights or yeah, or devastation in our region by these private military contractors, we are going to hold the other countries of our region responsible for that.”
Musah was asked if he was referring to Russia, to which the ECOWAS official replied, “That’s Russia (we will hold them) responsible diplomatically. The West African region is just not Russia.”
According to Musah, private military companies have been a feature of the African conflict scene for so many years.
“Private military companies were involved in Sierra Leone. They were involved in Liberia during those civil wars, long ago. And even recently, in the global conflict, there has been the use of private military companies,” he said.
“The Americans are using them in Iraq; in Afghanistan, they use them, and others. What we are seeing is that these groups are not acceptable in Africa, even though they are there, and we are going to hold their countries of origin responsible for any violations.”
In related news, Musah said that the ousted Niger president Mohamed Bazoum and his son being held by the country’s coup leaders, are living under appalling circumstances.
“We are going there, if need be, to rescue President Bazoum, who is living in very terrible conditions today. He is being denied medical attention, he’s being denied even access to his usual food,” he said.
“His son, who is also in detention, has lost so many kilos already. They are being held in these inhumane conditions and we cannot just sit back idle and depend on the goodwill of these people who are disrupting the democratic process in the country.”
Meanwhile, West African chiefs of staff met on Saturday following a summit that ordered the deployment of a “standby force” in the effort to resolve the Niger Republic crisis, regional military sources said.