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On Ecowas proposed military intervention in Niger:

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Possible implications for Gambia’s action/inaction

By Sheriff Njie

3rd year Political Science student, UTG

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As Gambians intensify their calls on the government not to send personnel of the Gambia National Army as part of any Ecowas intervention in Niger to restore democracy, here are my observations about the much talked about subject in our national discourse of recent.

Firstly, the important question one may ask is why Ecowas reacted to the military coup in Niger so differently from the coups in other West African countries such as Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. Some political analysts argued that their decision to intervene in Niger militarily was marred by undue interference from France who are determined to protect their economic interest in Niger. Others indicated that there is growing concerns among Ecowas Presidents considering the Sub-region is increasingly becoming a cradle of the new wave of military coups in Africa. With all ramifications, Ecowas has always maintained that their decision was motivated by democratic restoration in Niger. However, it is inexplicable for the Ecowas to convincingly justify a military intervention in only Niger devoid of other coup streaking-countries in the Sub-region at this critical conjuncture.

Coups are illegal in all cases as it perpetuate autocracy, economic mismanagement, and eroding democratic values among other negative effects they come along with. However, Niger remained relatively calm and there were no major human atrocities that could warrant military action without exhausting all the peaceful means available to resolve the problem. Such intervention may lead to the loss of innocent lives and also plunge our entire Sub-region into a precarious security situation.

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Like many Gambians, I equally disagree with any decision to deploy members of the Gambia Arm Forces to form part of the Ecowas intervention force in Niger should the West African bloc decide to intervene militarily. This is mainly because military interventions are different from peace-keeping missions. The difference is that peace-keeping missions are usually done with serenity where soldiers primarily enforce a truce between hostile groups and may not have to fight to achieve their objectives as it is exemplified in Darfur. In the case of military intervention, multi-national forces force their way into the land, water or airport of another country to alter its political dynamics and during that, both parties could suffer casualties. This is the reason why many opposed the idea of sending Gambian troops to Niger to save the lives of our brothers and sisters in uniform.

On the other hand, if the Gambia blatantly refused to be part of any military action in Niger, that equally comes with its repercussions. Ecowas, like other international organisations are anchored on the principle of reciprocity, that is states are granted rights and benefits only when they are committed to grant the same treatment. If the Gambia decided not to take in a possible intervention in Niger, no one would them accountable because we are a sovereign state that can decide on its action or inaction. God forbid, if our country happens to be gripped by a political crisis in future like the political impasse in 2007, Ecowas and other multilateral organizations may also decide not to intervene and that could be catastrophic for our country.

Finally, I think as Gambians, we should urge our President to push for a peaceful resolution at the level of Ecowas on Thursday when the bloc is expected to meet again to discuss the issue of Niger. Since there are no indications that the regional body will go along with its initial decision to intervene militarily in Niger, there is still the need to dissuade them from the use of force. Even if the Gambia decides not to be part of possible intervention force, it must not be blatantly done, instead, we should excuse ourselves in a more civilised manner to avoid any future consequences of our action.

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