The security committee of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), made up of Military Chiefs from various countries, announced on Friday their decision to prioritize diplomacy in handling the ongoing political turmoil in Niger.
The decision came after a two-day meeting involving Chiefs of Defence Staff from Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Gambia, Cote’Divoire, Cabo Verde and the Republic of Benin.
Notably, representatives from Mali, Niger, Guinea, and Burkina Faso were absent.
Presided over by Gen. Christopher Musa, President of ECOWAS Military Chiefs, the meeting concluded with a commitment to strengthen diplomatic efforts and prioritize dialogue and negotiation in resolving the crisis in Niger, as stated by Gen. Musa during a press briefing.
Musa said, “It has been an honour to preside over this extraordinary meeting on the situation of the recent coup in the Niger Republic as the President of this honourable committee of the CDS of ECOWAS States.
“I would like to extend my heartfelt gratitude to each one of you for your insightful contributions, thoughtful deliberations, and unwavering commitment to the cause of peace and stability in our region.
“Throughout our discussions, we have collectively recognized the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for a well-coordinated response. The deliberations have been marked by a spirit of unity, cooperation and determination to address the challenges at hand.
“We have examined the immediate implications of the coup on the Niger Republic and its potential ripple effects across the ECOWAS region. We have also deliberated on the broader implications for democracy, peace, and stability in West Africa.
“I am pleased to note that our discussions have yielded valuable insights and actionable recommendations. We have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security, and diplomatic dimensions.
“It is imperative that we translate our deliberations into concrete actions that can effectively address the crisis and prevent a recurrence in the future.
“Firstly, we must emphasize the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law. The coup in the Niger Republic represents a blatant disregard for these fundamental principles that underpin our regional integration and stability. We must unequivocally condemn such actions and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to democracy.
“Secondly, we must strengthen our regional security architecture and enhance our collective response to security challenges. The coup in the Niger Republic has highlighted the fragility of our region and the need for a robust and proactive security framework.
“We must enhance intelligence sharing, joint training exercises, and capacity-building initiatives among our defence and security forces to effectively combat threats to our collective security and enhance interoperability.
“Thirdly, we must intensify our diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders. Dialogue and negotiation should be at the forefront of our approach to resolving the crisis in the Republic of Niger.
“We must engage with the transitional authorities, civil society organizations, and other key actors to foster an inclusive and peaceful transition process.”
ECOWAS made it clear that they’re committed to preventing unconstitutional power changes in the region.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah remarked that the recent trend of successful and unsuccessful military coups, estimated to be eight to nine in the last three years, has put the region’s democratic stability at risk.
Musah stressed the urgency of addressing this situation, mentioning that all ECOWAS member states were governed by democratically elected presidents just three years ago, but the threat of military takeovers has increased lately.
He reminded that the defence chiefs’ meeting was guided by the Protocol relating to the mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping and security, which was adopted in 1999 and universally accepted by all member states in 2001.
Musah said, “Respected chiefs of defence staff of our region, this is a clarion call to you. This is a test of the will of our militaries to demonstrate that we have a democratically minded military whose responsibility is the protection of the state.
“So the diplomacy is being given a chance to succeed and like we said, the military option is the very last on the table. And if we can avoid that, a peaceful resolution is our preferred option but we have to prepare for all eventualities.
“The time has come again for ECOWAS to show that we are a rules-based organisation, we are rule-based countries; we cannot allow the rule by the Ballot Box to be replaced by the rule of Kalashnikovs.”