ECOWAS orders activation of its standby force over Niger coup

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The West African regional bloc ECOWAS on Thursday ordered the activation of its standby force over a coup in Niger on July 26, according to a communique readout at the end of a regional summit.

ECOWAS said on Thursday all options including the use of force remained on the table to restore constitutional order in Niger.

After a summit of its heads of state in the Nigerian capital Abuja, the bloc pledged to enforce sanctions and travel bans on those preventing the return to power of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

“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 August 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.