The militaries of several ECOWAS members have agreed on a plan for military intervention in Niger and are waiting for a final political decision, a senior official of the bloc said on Friday.
The Economic Community of West African States has already sanctioned the junta in Niamey over last week’s military coup and demanded the restoration of ousted president Mohamed Bazoum before Sunday.
Even as Nigeria sent diplomats to its northern neighbor, its capital Abuja was hosting a planning meeting of ECOWAS chiefs of staff. Notably absent were Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, and Guinea.
“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going [to] deploy the force,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security.
Musah added that the final decision will be made at the political level, but that ECOWAS will not telegraph when and where it will strike.
“ECOWAS will not be used for coups. Democracy is what we stand for and democracy is what we will sustain,” General Christopher Gwabin Musa, chief of Nigeria’s defense staff, told AP.
On Thursday, Bazoum appealed directly to the US to intervene. Washington has some 1,000 troops in Niger, engaged in counter-terrorism operations against Islamist groups that arose after NATO’s 2011 regime change intervention in Libya. Niger’s former colonial master France has another 1,500 troops on the same mission.
The Nigerien junta repudiated all military treaties with France on Thursday, and sacked the country’s ambassadors to the US, France, Togo and Nigeria. Paris and Washington have said they do not intend to remove their troops from the country, and only recognized Bazoum as the legitimate leader.
Niamey has warned both the West and ECOWAS that any military intervention will be met with deadly force. “All aggression or attempt at aggression against the state of Niger will see an immediate response,” junta spokesman Colonel Amadou Abdramane, said on Friday.
In a joint statement earlier this week, Burkina Faso and Mali said that an ECOWAS incursion into Niger will be taken as a declaration of war against them as well.