…By Paul Ejime
ECOWAS military chiefs ended their second emergency meeting in Accra, Ghana on Friday 18th August by agreeing a “D-Day” for the deployment of military force to restore constitutional order in Niger following the 26th July military coup.
At the same time, an ECOWAS delegation is expected to travel to Niamey on Saturday for talks with the junta leaders.
Dr Abdel-Fatau Musah, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace & Security, who read the outcome of the two-day meeting did not disclose the date of deployment, but said “all but four ECOWAS member States present here” had committed to the military intervention, with the strategic capacity need and equipment supply decided.
“We are ready to go once the order is given,” he added.
On the pursuit of diplomatic solution, he said that “all options are on the table.”
The Brig.-Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani-led junta had refused to receive a previous joint ECOWAS-AU- UN Mission citing security concerns following ECOWAS imposed sanctions including a no-fly zone over Niger.
However, the junta leaders have received a delegation of Muslim Ulamas (scholars) from Nigeria, and declared their intention to dialogue with ECOWAS
Dr Musah stressed that the ball was now in the court of the Niger military leaders to take steps that would prevent the use of force by ECOWAS.
Mobilisation of a multinational force could take up to six weeks and the use of military option threatened by ECOWAS leaders on 30th July is growing unpopular in some member States.
This is because of the complexity of the situation involving multiple interests in Niger and the fear that such a risky venture could escalate into a catastrophic war.
There is also the big question about what happens after the military action.
Meanwhile, the UN humanitarian agency has expressed concern over deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Niger.
It has therefore urged ECOWAS and partners to provide corridors for flights bearing humanitarian supplies and the exclusion of transactions for humanitarian services from the financial sanctions imposed on Niger.