Burkina Faso, Mali, Guinea declare support for Niger coup as the regional ECOWAS puts pressure on the military rulers of the country to return power to the democratically elected leadership
In a dangerous turn of events, military-ruled Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea have declared their support for the coup in Niger. President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown on 26 July in the region’s third putsch in as many years following takeovers in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso.
Burkina Faso and Mali in a joint statement on Monday warned that any military intervention against Niamey would be considered a declaration of war against their nations.
“Any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” they warned, adding that such a move could result in “disastrous consequences” that “could destabilise the entire region”.
The warning was read out on their national broadcasters a day after ECOWAS threatened to use force to reinstate Niger’s deposed President Mohamed Bazoum should the coup plotters not comply after seven days.
“The transitional governments of Burkina Faso and Mali express their fraternal solidarity… to the people of Niger, who have decided with full responsibility to take their destiny in hand and assume the fullness of their sovereignty before history,” Aljazeera quoted the two countries as saying.
They described sanctions imposed on Niger as “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane against the people and authorities of Niger hence will not apply them.”
The threat of regional military action against the coupists in Nigeria has also been rejected by many analysts who posit that such a development would only worsen the security situation in the Sahel.
Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu has reiterated that he was committed to a peaceful resolution of the crisis in response to local criticisms of possible military action led by Abuja.
Tinubu, who is the current Chairman of ECOWAS, on Thursday, dispatched a delegation to the Niger Republic with a mandate to expeditiously resolve the current political impasse in the country. The action was in line with the resolution reached at the end of the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS held last weekend in Abuja.
The regional body had at the summit called “for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum as President and Head of State of the Republic of Niger, and for the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger”.
ECOWAS threatened to “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger” if its call is not heeded. “Such measures may include the use of force; To this effect, the Chiefs of defense staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately.”
Meanwhile, the French government announced on Tuesday the commencement of the evacuation of its nationals and other European nationals from Niger.
“Given the situation in Niamey, the violence that took place against our embassy the day before yesterday and the closure of airspace which leaves our compatriots without the possibility of leaving the country by their own means, France is preparing the evacuation of its nationals and European nationals wishing to leave the country,” a statement from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said.
France had also suspended, with immediate effect, all its development aid and budget support to Niger while calling for an immediate return to constitutional order under President Bazoum.
The statement did not, however, clearly state if the 1,500 French soldiers stationed in Niger will also leave.
Supporters of the coup leaders have been holding public demonstrations in Niger’s capital city Niamey. Some protesters, chanting “Down with France”, on Sunday attacked the French embassy while denouncing France and waving Russia’s flag. The protesters set a door at the embassy ablaze before they were dispersed by the army.
The coup in Niger, the fourth in West Africa in recent years, has been condemned by the African Union, United Nations, European Union, United States of America, China, Russia, la Francophonie, the Commonwealth, the OIC and other international bodies.