Following a coup on July 26, the West African bloc ECOWAS declared on Thursday that all options, including the use of force, were on the table. It also ordered the activation of its standby force.
Following a session of its leaders in Abuja, Nigeria, the bloc vowed to impose travel restrictions and sanctions on individuals obstructing the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum’s return to office.
“No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort,” said Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS chair, at the end of the summit.
“We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger in the journey towards peaceful democratic stability,” he said.
“I hope that through our collective effort we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger. All is not lost yet.”
After Tinubu spoke, an official communique was read out which included a resolution asking the bloc’s defence chiefs to “activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements immediately”.
Another resolution spoke of ordering “the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger”, immediately followed by another that spoke of restoring such order “through peaceful means”.
The junta in Niamey had defied an Aug. 6 deadline to stand down set by ECOWAS, instead closing Niger’s airspace and vowing to defend the country against any foreign attack.
ECOWAS defence chiefs last week drew up plans for possible military intervention in Niger, which the heads of state discussed during Thursday’s summit. The summit communique gave no indication of when or under what circumstances a deployment within Niger might take place.