ECOWAS defence chiefs wrapped up a two-day conference on Thursday to address last week’s coup in Niger, promising to send a clear statement about their opposition to unlawful takeovers.
In its efforts to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum’s leadership, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions, threatened military involvement, and made diplomatic overtures.
It is unclear if the conference of defence chiefs in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, would offer more details on the bloc’s threat to allow the use of force if coup leaders do not return Bazoum by a Sunday deadline—its toughest position yet following a succession of military takeovers in the region.
The Niger junta swore late Wednesday that it would not yield to foreign pressure, dismissing the sanctions and ECOWAS’s threat to interfere.
Because of the unrest, various European countries have evacuated their nationals from Niger by plane. The US said on Wednesday that it has ordered the evacuation of certain workers and families from its embassy, despite the fact that the mission remains open and top leadership continues to work there.
After military takeovers in member nations Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, as well as an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau in the previous two years, ECOWAS has fought to contain a democratic backslide in West Africa.
However, there are early indications that the consequences of its sanctions are having an effect: Nigeria halted electricity supply to Niger, leaving Nigerien trucks stuck due to border closures.
Last Wednesday, Abdourahamane Tiani, the former chief of Bazoum’s presidential guard, locked Bazoum in his palace and declared himself head of state.
Niger is a key Western partner in the war against Islamist terrorists, and the coup has been criticized by international countries concerned that it may allow the jihadists to gain territory. Niger is also the world’s seventh-largest producer of uranium, a radioactive metal used in nuclear energy and cancer treatment.
According to the State Department, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken reminded Bazoum in a phone call on Wednesday that the US remained committed to the restoration of Bazoum’s elected administration.