Niger junta defies ECOWAS ultimatum, awaits response

Niger’s military leaders remained in defiance on Monday against an ultimatum to reinstate the elected government, while the possibility of military intervention still loomed.

Following the passing of the Sunday deadline, no foreign forces were observed on the streets of Niamey, the capital. However, the ECOWAS regional bloc has not yet issued a public response to the coup leaders’ persistent refusal.

An individual with insight into the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) indicated that there is currently no contemplation of an immediate military intervention to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum.

However, there is a potential for a summit of member nations’ leaders in the upcoming days to determine the subsequent actions, the source stated. Countries such as Italy and Germany have expressed support for a diplomatic resolution in the turbulent West African nation.

In a show of solidarity with the people of Niger, neighboring Mali announced that it, along with Burkina Faso, both of which have been suspended from the West African bloc ECOWAS due to their own military coups, will dispatch a joint official delegation to Niamey.

They have emphasized that any military intervention would essentially equate to a declaration of war.

The military leaders of Niger have shut down the country’s airspace, and as of Monday, the skies were devoid of air traffic, as reported by the flight tracking website Flightradar24.

Italy and Germany both appealed to ECOWAS to extend the deadline and pursue a diplomatic resolution.

“We support ECOWAS in its mediation efforts, which are still ongoing,” a foreign ministry spokesman told a press briefing.

Calls For Diplomatic Solution

Algeria, which shares an extensive land border with Niger, has also advised against a military resolution, emphasizing that it would constitute “a direct threat to Algeria.”

Senators in Nigeria, a significant regional player whose president currently chairs ECOWAS, have advocated for a collective emphasis on the “political and diplomatic option”.

Moments before the ultimatum’s expiration on Sunday, the military leaders of Niger sealed off the nation’s airspace in the Sahel region and issued a caution that any effort to breach it would be met with a “energetic and immediate response”.

They revealed that two Central African countries had engaged in a “pre-deployment in readiness for intervention,” although the nations were not specified. They also cautioned, “Any nation engaged will be regarded as a co-belligerent.”

France, the former colonial power with which Niger’s new leadership has severed military connections, stated that it would staunchly support any course of action undertaken by ECOWAS following the expiration of the deadline.

On Sunday, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara appealed to the coup leaders to step down.

“We condemn the attempted coup in Niger, which poses a serious threat to peace and security in the sub-region,” Ouattara said, adding it was “essential” to “constitutional order” that Bazoum be allowed to govern.

The coup in Niger is the most recent in a series of coups that have affected Africa’s Sahel region since 2020.

Niger has been integral to Western efforts in countering militant uprisings in the Sahel since 2012, with both France and the United States deploying approximately 1,500 and 1,000 troops in the nation, respectively.

In the wake of the coup, France has already conducted the evacuation of numerous of its citizens from Niger. Additionally, on Sunday, Italy’s defense ministry confirmed the airlift of 65 military personnel from Niger, along with 10 US military personnel.

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