26.2 C
City of Banjul
Sunday, October 1, 2023

ECOWAS communiqué on Niger


On Sunday the 30th of July 2023, the heads of state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had an extraordinary session in Abuja, Nigeria where they discussed the military coup d’état in Niger. At the end of that session, the sub-regional leaders issued a communiqué in which they gave the junta one week to cede power and restore the democratically elected government.

It could be recalled that a few days ago, members of the military in the Republic of Niger seized power ousting the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum. The soldiers cited the lack of security and the way the government was handling it as the reason for their actions. The military takeover was condemned from different parts of the world.

ECOWAS also issued a statement calling for the immediate restoration of the president and the return to the barracks of the soldiers. They demanded that the president and his family members be released unconditionally. The AU, EU and the United States all condemned the coup and called on the leaders to return to the barracks and hand over the reins of power to the elected government.

Observers will remember that the past few years have seen many military takeovers in the sub-region. There were coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and now Niger. In all these the ECOWAS issued statements condemning the coup and announcing financial and other sanctions until the said country returned to democratically elected governments. But it is clear that none of those measures meant anything to those coup leaders.

ECOWAS was constantly criticized for not doing enough to stop or prevent the unconstitutional changing of governments in the region. In fact, many referred to them as a toothless bulldog as all they did was seen as mere rhetoric. The leaders were also often criticized for not calling each other out when one or more of them sought to remain in power unconstitutionally as that was usually seen as an internal matter of a sovereign state.

With the situation in Niger; however, it seems the bloc is taking new steps to ensure that the issue of unconstitutional change of power stops. Perhaps this is the first time that the bloc is threatening the use of military force to restore democracy in one of its member states.

Whether the bloc will make good its threat should the junta ignore their demands is yet to be seen. If they do not, then it seems all the military groups who harbor intentions of overthrowing their governments will have a free way to do as they please. But if the junta in Niger ignores their demand and they go ahead to send a force there, that will send a strong signal that they are no longer willing to tolerate any unconstitutional change of government.

However, it is important for the bloc to take a stance on another form of coups which is the illegal changing of constitutions to allow leaders to cling on to power as we often see in West Africa. As they condemn military putsches, they must also talk about what leads to it which is, leaders refusing to step down even after exhausting their terms.

They must insist that all countries abide by a two term limit so that the region can do away with coups for good. This is important.

Join The Conversation
- Advertisment -spot_img