West African defence chiefs have made a plan for potential military intervention to reverse last week’s coup in Niger, including how and when to deploy forces.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will not divulge to the coup plotters when and where it will strike, but Abdel-Fatau Musah – ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security – said on Friday the decision will be taken by the bloc’s heads of state.
Keep readinglist of 4 items
“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going to deploy the force,” Musah said at the close of a three-day meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
ECOWAS has already imposed sanctions on Niger and said it could authorise the use of force if the coup leaders do not restore power to elected President Mohamed Bazoum by Sunday.
The 15-member body sent a delegation to Niger on Thursday seeking an “amicable resolution”, but a source in the entourage said a meeting at the airport with the military’s representatives yielded no breakthrough.
“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” Musah said.
The coup leaders closed the borders of Niger on July 26 when announcing they had removed Bazoum from power. The borders were opened five days later.
Niger, which borders seven African countries – including Libya, Chad and Nigeria – is seen by the United States and former colonial ruler France as an important partner to address security threats in the region.
The country is the largest recipient of US military assistance in West Africa, having received an estimated $500m since 2012.
The country also hosts more than 2,000 Western troops, mostly from the US and France. Various Western nations have cancelled aid and cooperation agreements with the military administration since the putsch.
Niger’s coup was the seventh military takeover in less than three years in Western and Central Africa.
Given its uranium and oil riches and pivotal role in the war with rebels in the Sahel region, Niger also has strategic significance for China, Europe and Russia.