ECOWAS defence chiefs have said there should be a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security and diplomatic dimensions in addressing the situation in Niger Republic.
The Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS) of Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS) countries made this known at the end of their three-day Extra Ordinary Meeting, in Abuja on Friday.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff and President of the committee, Gen. Christopher Musa, commended ECOWAS for standing firm for democracy, adding that the militaries of the member countries were firmly in support of their stand.
He said that the committee collectively recognised the gravity of the situation in Niger and the urgent need for a well-coordinated response.
Musa added that they also examined the immediate implication of the coup and its potential ripple effects across the ECOWAS region.
“We have also deliberated on the broader implication for democracy, peace and stability in West Africa and pleased to note that our discussions have yielded valuable insights and actionable recommendations.
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“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 effectively address the crisis and prevent a recurrence in the future. Democracy is what we stand for and democracy is what we will sustain,” he said.
Musa said the military chiefs agreed that there was no alternative democratic principles and rule of law in the region, adding that the coup in Niger represented blatant disregard for the fundamental principles that underpin regional integration and stability.
“We must condemn such action and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to democracy,” he said, adding that regional security architecture should be strengthened to enhance collective response to security challenges.
According him, the meeting recognised the fact that the coup in Niger highlighted the fragility of the region.
“We must enhance intelligence sharing, joint training exercises and capacity-building initiative among our defence and security forces to effectively combat threats to our collective security and enhance interoperability.
“We must intensify our diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders. Dialogue and negotiations should be at the forefront of our approach in resolving the crisis in the Republic of Niger.
“We must engage the traditional authorities, civil society, organisation and all the key actors to foster an inclusive and peaceful transition process,” he said.
The CDS said the meeting urged member states to hasten the implementation of the recommendations and translate them into tangible actions for quick solutions to the situation in Niger.
“Let us seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact and ensure that the Republic of Niger and the entire region can progress on the path of democracy, peace, and stability.
“I urge you all to prioritise the implementation of recommendations that have been put forth during our deliberations.
“This requires a concerted effort and a sense of urgency. We must allocate the necessary resources, engage relevant stakeholders, and monitor progress to ensure that our decisions have a tangible impact on the ground,” he added.
ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, commended the military chiefs for taking time to produce a concept of operation for an eventual military intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger.
Musah said that all the elements that would go into any intervention had been worked out and were being refined, including the timing, resources needed and how, where and when to deploy such force.
He said that ECOWAS being a rule-based institution was determined to put an end to the military coup contagion in the region.
“But first, we are giving diplomacy every chance to succeed and there have been multiple approaches to the military Junta in Niger.
“The results of whatever has been achieved here will be presented very soon to the Heads of Central Government who will have the last say as to what we are going to do with regard to the situation in the Republic of Niger, provided that all diplomatic overtures do not yield result.
“So, I want to, through this medium also appeal to the military in Niger to give peace a chance, and then think about their populations and do the right thing by immediately restoring constitutional order in their country.
“That is our message to them and if they don’t, then we will make them hand over to civilian authorities and that is the determination of ECOWAS and we want to send that message clearly across to all of them,” he said.
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Defence, Dr Ibrahim Kana, said that Nigeria was committed to restoring democracy in Niger, but said military option would be the last resort.
“Military option is the last option but the President has directed us, the Ministry of Defence and the Armed Forces of Nigeria to come together with other ECOWAS members,” he said.
Countries represented at the meeting included Togo, Sierra Leone, Senegal, Nigeria, Liberia, Guinea Bissau, Ghana, Gambia, Cote Devoir, Cape Verde and Benin while Niger, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso were absent. (NAN)