Nigeria’s president and leader of the West African group, ECOWAS, hasn’t ruled out military force in Niger. However, he thinks that talking things out diplomatically is the best approach to solving the crisis, his spokesperson said.
Bola Tinubu, for the first time, shared his thoughts on the situation in Niger Tuesdy.
The soldiers who staged the coup in Niger didn’t meet the bloc’s deadline to put the elected President Mohamed Bazoum back in charge or face the chance of facing military action. At the same time, ECOWAS and the United States haven’t been able to make progress in their discussions with Niger’s new leaders.
A crisis meeting is planned for Thursday in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Tinubu’s spokesperson, Ajuri Ngelale, stated that all possibilities are being considered, but Tinubu and other leaders from West Africa prefer to resolve things through diplomacy.
“No options have been taken off the table,” Ngelale said.
The United States expressed hope for reversing the coup, but they are also being realistic. A high-ranking US representative visited Niger but didn’t achieve any meaningful progress.
“We do have hope that the situation will be reversed, but at the same time, we are making clear, including in direct conversations with junta leaders themselves, what the consequences are for failing to return to constitutional order,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.
The soldiers who took control in Niamey on July 26 stopped a mission by ECOWAS before the upcoming summit. The coup leaders said that the public’s anger due to ECOWAS sanctions could affect the safety of the delegation.
ECOWAS, the economic community in the bloc, imposed trade and financial penalties on Niger after rebel soldiers ousted Bazoum. They also gave Niger a week to reinstate Bazoum or face the potential of military action. But the coup leaders ignored this warning.
Sources close to ECOWAS said on Monday that the countries are not immediately considering military intervention and that they still see a possibility for discussions.
ECOWAS planned to send a team to Niamey on Tuesday ahead of the crisis meeting in Abuja on Thursday. However, the coup leaders sent a letter on Monday saying they needed to delay the planned mission and adjust the schedule due to security concerns and the threat of aggression against Niger.
The letter read in part: “The postponement of the announced mission to Niamey is necessary, as is the reworking of certain aspects of the (delegation’s) schedule.”
The schedule “includes meetings with certain personalities which cannot take place for obvious reasons of security given the atmosphere of the threat of aggression against Niger,” it said.
ECOWAS is grappling with several coups since 2020, affecting four of its members. These takeovers are fueled by a jihadist insurgency causing significant loss of life and displacement, particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, and now Niger.
Victoria Nuland, a seasoned US representative, recently met with Niger’s military leaders, but their talks didn’t lead to a resolution. She offered various options to end the crisis and restore relations with the US, which has suspended aid. But her suggestions weren’t taken up.
“I would not say that we were in any way taken up on that offer,” she told reporters before her departure.
Niger’s new leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, didn’t participate in the meeting, and Nuland couldn’t meet with Bazoum, who has been detained since July 26.
The coups in Mali and Burkina Faso have expressed solidarity with Niger, warning that military intervention would be seen as a declaration of war against them. Algeria, which shares a border with Niger, cautioned against a military solution.
Senators in Nigeria, a regional power, have emphasised the importance of political and diplomatic solutions.
Bazoum, who won elections in 2021 for a peaceful transition of power, is at the center of this situation. He took charge of a country marked by previous coups. His support played a role in France’s decision to focus on Niger for its anti-jihadist mission.
France and the US have troops in Niger, with France having 1,500 troops and the US having 1,000 personnel. Nuland cautioned against Niger following Mali’s path by involving Wagner mercenaries from Russia, as it could risk their sovereignty.