West African military leaders have issued a joint appeal for the immediate and unconditional release of President Mohammed Bazoum of Niger, who has been detained by the Niger Republic military junta since July 26, 2023.
This call was made during the two-day 48th Extraordinary Meeting of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS), which concluded on Friday in Accra.
In addition to demanding President Bazoum’s release, the ECOWAS military chiefs also called for the freedom of the President’s family members and the members of his cabinet who are currently in detention.
Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security at ECOWAS, emphasized the organization’s readiness to intervene in Niger if necessary.
He stated, “ECOWAS stands prepared to swiftly respond to any call for action in Niger. Our troops are well-equipped, politically motivated, and resourced.”
Ambassador Musah clarified that ECOWAS is not against the Republic of Niger but is dedicated to restoring constitutional governance.
He added, “We are open to dialogue but not fruitless discussions. Sanctions remain an option on the table. We are determined to put an end to the recurring coups in the region.”
Furthermore, Ambassador Musah announced that the meeting of the CDS focused on the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force in Niger and that it was the final discussion before potential deployment.
The recent military takeover in Niger marks the ninth coup or attempted power grab in West and Central Africa in just over three years.
These regions had worked hard to distance themselves from the label of a “coup-prone” belt.
ECOWAS leaders had previously decided to activate a standby force for intervention following the junta’s takeover, with Mr. Omar Alieu Touray, President of ECOWAS, confirming this decision during an Extraordinary Meeting held in Abuja on August 10, 2023.
President Touray urged the African Union (AU), partner countries, and institutions to support ECOWAS in its efforts.
He noted that previous attempts to engage in dialogue with the Nigerien military junta had been unproductive.