ECOWAS may use force on Niger junta, calls for immediate release, reinstatement of Bazoum

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Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS on Sunday in Abuja called for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum as the legitimate Head of State and Government of the Republic of Niger.

In a communiqué at the end of the extraordinary summit on socio-political situation in the Republic of Niger read by the President, ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, the leaders also rejected any form of purported resignation by President Bazoum and declared him as the only recognised and elected President by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.

‘‘In this regard, only official acts of President Bazoum or his duly-mandated officials will be recognized by ECOWAS,’’ they said.

The leaders expressed strong condemnation of the attempted overthrow of constitutional order in Niger, and the illegal detention of President Bazoum, as well as members of his family and government.

They demanded full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger and considered the illegal detention of President Bazoum as a hostage situation, holding the authors of the attempted coup d’état solely and fully responsible for his safety and security and that of his family and government.

In the event, ECOWAS’ demands are not met within one week, the leaders said they would take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.

“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect, the Chiefs of Defence staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately,’’ the leaders said.

ECOWAS leaders also condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors, while expressing appreciation to various governments and partners for their stance and solidarity.

The summit hosted by President Bola Tinubu, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, also agreed to appoint and dispatch a Special Representative to deliver the demands of the authority.

In response to the coup attempt, the summit announced immediate sanctions on Niger including the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger, establishing a no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger, and suspending all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Niger.

Furthermore, assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Bank, Niger state enterprises, and parastatals in commercial banks will be frozen.

Niger will also be suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within ECOWAS.

Additionally, travel bans and asset freezes were imposed on the military officials involved in the coup attempt, as well as their family members and civilians who accept to participate in any institution or government established by these military officials.

In his closing remarks to the summit, President Tinubu thanked fellow leaders, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission Chairperson, the Special Representative of the Secretary -General and Head of the United Nations Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simaõ, for their active engagement and invaluable contributions to the discussions.

‘‘As we come close to this Extraordinary Summit on the socio- political situation in the Republic of Niger, I send my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your active engagement in our open and closed door meeting.

‘‘Your invaluable contributions to our discussions have got us this far and hopefully, we will achieve our objective.

‘‘The essence of African unity and solidarity is hereby reaffirmed. Our unwavering commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity is hereby resolved.

‘‘Throughout our deliberations, we have recognized that the challenges faced by Niger are inter connected with broader issues affecting our region.

‘‘As African leaders, it is our shared responsibility to foster stability and progress, placing the wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our endeavours, and working together towards their prosperity and happiness must always consistently, be our goals and consistently.

‘‘We will stand with our people in freedom and our commitment to the rule of law and not the barrel of a gun. Africa has come of age.

‘‘We reject coup and interruption to constitutional order. Thank you for coming,’’ he said.

Before the summit, the President also held bilateral meetings with President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau, President Mahmat Iddris Deby Itno of Chad, and Michael Health, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of African Affairs.

Presidents Patrice Talon of Benin Republic, Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, Adama Barrow of The Gambia, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Umaro Embalo of Guinea Bissau, Macky Sall of Senegal, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo attended the Summit while the Presidents of Cape Verde, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone were represented.