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Niger coup: Catholic bishops warn against military intervention

Catholic bishops urge media professionals to deepen collaboration with the church

The Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) has urged the authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to restrain from the use of force to restore the constitutional regime in Niger Republic.

Concerned about what might be the consequences of the proposed military intervention in Niger, RECOWA, the body of all Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops in West Africa, also urged the sub-regional leaders to learn from what happened in Libya in 2011, describing it as a tragic example of the disastrous consequences on people’s lives, dignity and future.

In a two-page letter dated 7 August and addressed to the President of ECOWAS, Heads of State of ECOWAS and the Transitional Authorities in Niger, RECOWA called for dialogue and reconciliation rather than aggression and military response.

The letter, signed by Alexis Touabli Youlo, RECOWA’s president and bishop of Agboville, was in response to the military coup that displaced the democratically elected government of Mohammed Bazoum, president of Niger Republic and the resolve of ECOWAS to deploy all means necessary, even the use of force, to restore the constitutional regime in Niger.

Despite a seven-day ultimatum issued to the military regime led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani to restore Niger’s constitutional government, all other diplomatic measures taken by ECOWAS, African Union (AU), European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN) to resolve the Niger crisis have not brought about order and stability to the troubled country.

RECOWA canvassed for nonviolence rather than aggression in the management of the crisis in Niger, by inviting every actor within and outside the sub-region to show restraint, discernment and responsibility.

“We, the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, after consultations, are deeply concerned by the sub-regional tension linked to the political situation in Niger. Faced with the events currently unfolding in the sub-region, the lives of the people of West Africa are at stake.

“Keeping as our central vision the integrity of the people and emphasising respect for human dignity and a high sense of accountability to mankind, history and God the creator, we affirm that nothing can justify the creation or facilitation of an environment that is destructive to our people,” the statement reads.

Read also: Nigeria needs peace, not war

The letter sternly observed that no individual, national, regional, geo-political or denominational interest or project should take precedence over the preservation of life, human dignity and the wellbeing of the future generation in West Africa and beyond.

“We, your pastors, are convinced, and the history of people teaches us that violence does not solve any problem, not even the one that triggered it. We affirm that any military intervention in Niger at this time would contemplate the situation of the people of Niger and the sub-region more than it would provide solutions.

“Terrorism already has a macabre toll of widows, orphans, displaced persons, the hungry, the maimed and so on. People are not expecting the regional, African and other institutions to add to this toll,” the group said

The bishops cited the military intervention in Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2011, describing the military intervention as a tragic example of the disastrous consequences on people’s lives, dignity and future.

“We cannot remain silent in the face of such situations and must learn lessons to ensure that such events do not happen again, particularly with Niger as a potential epicentre of a similar crisis. As a bishops’ conference, our mission is intimately linked to the promotion of reconciliation and peace.

“We firmly believe that every human being is called to live in peace and to be a peacemaker in accordance with the teachings of the Bible and those of the holy books of other religious confessions, which exhort us to work for reconciliation and brotherhood between all peoples.

“Peace is a precious gift that we must cultivate and preserve together. It is like a common mat that we must weave together with each person contributing to his or her own thread,” the bishops stated.

The body also challenged all stakeholders in the political impasse in Niger to play a positive role in easing tensions and promoting lasting peace, noting that the people of the region; “love and accept each other and are constantly seeking to improve their coexistence.

“This is a natural gift that we must support and encourage. Every actor and institution should contribute positively to this process by promoting dialogue and cooperation,” the bishops stated in their letter.

They called on the AU and ECOWAS to show responsibility before history and to revisit their respective missions. Accordingly, the body called on the regional organisations to play an active role in the search for peaceful and lasting solutions, putting the interests of the people and respect for their dignity first at this critical and delicate time.

The bishops further called on the sub-regional leaders to respond decisively to the call for restraint, discernment and responsibility, and work together to build a future of peace and prosperity for the region and Africa as a whole.