The political crisis in Niger Republic continues to escalate as the military junta that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum refuses to bow to the pressure from the regional bloc ECOWAS.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has announced that it will hold another extraordinary summit on Thursday, August 10, in Abuja, Nigeria, to discuss the situation and find a way out of the impasse.
The summit was convened by President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, who is also the chairman of ECOWAS, and will be attended by all the heads of government of the 15-member organization.
The statement issued by ECOWAS on Monday said that the leaders will consider and discuss the recent developments and the political situation in Niger during the summit1
ECOWAS had previously met in Abuja on August 1 and issued a seven-day ultimatum for the junta to restore Bazoum to power or face sanctions, including possible military intervention.
The ultimatum expired on Sunday, August 7, but the junta, which calls itself the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), ignored it and instead closed the country’s airspace and deployed troops to the capital Niamey.
The junta also cut off diplomatic ties with Nigeria and some other countries that supported Bazoum’s legitimacy, and warned against any foreign interference in Niger’s affairs. The junta said it was acting in the best interest of the nation and vowed to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
ECOWAS had sent a high-level delegation led by former Nigerian head of state General Abdulsalami Abubakar to Niger last week to persuade the coup leaders to step down peacefully and allow a democratic transition.
However, the delegation was snubbed by the junta’s leader General Abdourahamane Tchiani, who only met with his representatives.
The coup in Niger, which took place on July 26, was the fifth one since the country gained independence from France in 1960, and the first one since 2010. It came amid a wave of coups and coup attempts in West Africa, such as in Guinea, Mali, Sudan and Burkina Faso in recent years.
Niger is a strategic partner for many Western countries, especially France and the United States, which have hundreds of troops stationed in the country to help fight against terrorism and Islamist insurgencies in the region. Niger is also rich in natural resources, such as uranium, gold and oil, but remains one of the poorest countries in the world.
Many Nigeriens, especially among the youth, are disillusioned with the political system and blame France for their economic woes. They see the junta as an opportunity to break free from French influence and pursue a more independent path.
On Sunday, thousands of pro-junta supporters rallied at a stadium in Niamey to express their solidarity with the CNSP and their opposition to ECOWAS sanctions.
The outcome of the upcoming ECOWAS summit is uncertain, as the regional body faces a dilemma between respecting Niger’s sovereignty and upholding its democratic principles.
ECOWAS has said that it prefers a peaceful resolution of the crisis, but has not ruled out the use of force as a last resort. The situation has caused anxiety and panic among many Nigeriens, who fear a possible outbreak of violence or a prolonged instability in their country.