Niger Republic said on Monday, August 7 that it was waiting for a response from ECOWAS, the West African regional bloc after coup leaders ignored a deadline to reinstate the ousted president.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has said it will issue a statement on its next steps, responding to the junta’s refusal to stand down by Sunday, with the EU, US, France and Russia saying they hoped for a peaceful resolution.
ECOWAS has taken a hard stance on the July 26 power grab, the region’s seventh coup in three years.
ECOWAS defence chiefs agreed on a possible military action plan if the detained president, Mohamed Bazoum, is not released and reinstated, although they said the operational decisions of when and where to strike would be decided by heads of state.
Given its uranium and oil riches and its pivotal role in a war with Islamist militants, Niger holds economic and strategic importance for the United States, Europe, China and Russia.
On Sunday, as the ECOWAS deadline expired, the junta closed its airspace and said there had been a pre-deployment of military forces to its borders in preparation for intervention.
“Niger’s armed forces and all our defence and security forces, backed by the unfailing support of our people, are ready to defend the integrity of our territory,” said a Niger military representative in a statement on national television on Monday.
Also, the outcome of a proposed military intervention by ECOWAS is unknown as neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have promised to come to Niger’s defence if needed. Both countries were sending delegations to Niamey to show solidarity, the Malian army said on social media on Monday.
Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said in an interview published on Monday that ECOWAS should extend its deadline for the reinstatement of Bazoum.
“The only way is the diplomatic one. I hope that the ultimatum of ECOWAS, which expired last night at midnight, will be extended today,” Tajani told La Stampa newspaper.
“It is right that he (Bazoum) should be freed, but we cannot do it. The United States are very cautious about this, it is unthinkable that they would start a military intervention in Niger,” Tajani added.