ECOWAS plans review of Niger junta position
In a bid to find a lasting solution to the political crisis in Niger Republic, the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will meet again tomorrow.
The ECOWAS leaders had initially given the Niger military republic seven days to restore the country’s deposed President, Muhammed Bozoum, but the Niger military junta refused to comply with this decision, which has reportedly forced ECOWAS leaders to call for a new meeting.
A statement by the Directorate of Communication, Abuja Headquarters of the ECOWAS Commission indicated that “the summit will hold in Abuja”.
“The ECOWAS leaders will be considering and discussing the political situation and recent developments in Niger during the summit,” the terse statement added.
The ECOWAS leaders are led by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
The junta’s closure of airspace since Sunday disrupted the skies over landlocked Niger, which is more than twice the size of France.
It borders Libya, which is considered too unsafe for the passing of commercial aircraft.
Flights between London and Nairobi and London and South Africa were forced to divert.
“The closure of Niger’s airspace dramatically widens the area over which most commercial flights between Europe and southern Africa cannot fly,” tracking service FlightRadar24 said in a blog post.
Youths in Niger’s capital Niamey formed vigilante groups ahead of possible military intervention by the country’s neighbours to unseat the junta.
Vigilantes set up traffic checkpoints at several roundabouts overnight and were seen inspecting vehicles, according to a DPA reporter in the city.
The youths were said to belong to support committees that previously organised demonstrations backing Niger’s new military rulers led by Bazoum’s former head bodyguard, Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani.
It will be recalled that last week, ECOWAS agreed to a possible military action plan if Bazoum was not released and reinstated, although they said operational decisions would be decided by heads of state.
But, the bloc’s unity has been broken by a promise from the ruling juntas in Mali and Burkina Faso, both member states, to come to Niger’s defence if needed.
A fracture within ECOWAS and escalation of the stand-off with Niger would further destabilise one of the world’s poorest regions, already facing a hunger crisis and an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands and displaced millions.
“Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory,” said a junta representative in a statement on national television.
African and Western allies have imposed sanctions and cut aid to Niger in attempts to pressure the junta to step down.