West African bloc backs military ‘standby’ force for Niger
By Rédaction Africanews and Afp
West African leaders have approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger, an intervention that will take place as soon as possible, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said Thursday.
The ECOWAS regional bloc did not provide details on the force to be deployed or the timetable for action against the military officers who seized control of Niger two weeks ago, deposing Mohamed Bazoum as president.
But on his return to Abidjan from the emergency summit in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, Ouattara said: “The Chiefs of Staff will have other conferences to finalise things but they have the agreement of the Conference of Heads of State for the operation to start as soon as possible.”
Ivory Coast would provide a battalion of 850 to 1,100 men alongside soldiers from Nigeria and Benin, and other countries would join them, Ouattara said.
‘We are determined to restore president Bazoum to his functions,’ said Ouattara.
“We are determined to restore president Bazoum to his functions.”
Earlier, in Abuja, ECOWAS Commission President Omar Touray had announced the deployment of the bloc’s force.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for a non-violent solution to reverse the coup, praising the “determination of ECOWAS to explore all options for the peaceful resolution of the crisis” in a statement on Thursday.
The bloc was “playing a key role in making clear the imperative of a return to constitutional order, and we very much support ECOWAS’ leadership and work on this”, he told reporters earlier Thursday.
Former colonial power France gave its “full support to all the conclusions” ECOWAS reached, the foreign ministry said.
But even as the summit took place, Niger’s new military rulers moved to consolidate their position and signalled further defiance by appointing a new government.