West African leaders from the ECOWAS group will meet on Thursday for an emergency summit to talk about the coup in Niger. The military leaders of that country ignored an ultimatum to bring back the elected president.
Two weeks after the coup that got rid of Mohamed Bazoum, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it is looking for a diplomatic solution but has not ruled out using force to end the situation.
A statement from the 15-nation organization on Tuesday said that important decisions are expected to be made at the meeting in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria.
The bloc has been trying to stop a string of coups among its members since 2020. The troops who took power on July 26 had until last Sunday to put Bazoum back in power or face the use of force.
But the leaders of the coup didn’t back down, and the deadline passed without anything being done.
In their latest act of defiance against international pressure, the military leaders named a new government on Thursday. This was announced in an order that was shown on national TV.
Prime Minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine will be in charge of the 21-person government. Generals from the new military governing council will be in charge of running the defense and police ministries.
The idea of military intervention in Niger, a fragile country that is one of the poorest in the world, has led to discussion within ECOWAS and warnings from Algeria and Russia, which are close by.
Mali and Burkina Faso, which are next to Niger, are both run by military governments that took power in coups. They have both said that an invasion would be the same as declaring war on their countries.
Hopes for “real conversations”
On Tuesday, the coup leaders turned down a plan to send a team of people from ECOWAS, the UN, and the African Union to the city of Niamey.
The coup leaders’ choice of a new prime minister earlier this week seemed to mark the beginning of a change to a new government.
But on Wednesday, a former emir of the Nigerian city of Kano said that he had met with the leaders of the coup to try to calm things down.
Lamido Sanusi Sanusi told Nigerian state television that he had talked to coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani and would give a “message” to Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, even though he was not an official government messenger.
“We came with the hope that real talks would happen between the leaders of Niger and Nigeria,” said Sanusi, who is known to be Tinubu’s best friend.
Nigeria, which is in charge of ECOWAS right now, is taking a hard stance against the coup in Niger last month. This was the fifth coup in Niger since it became independent from France in 1960.
Before leaving for Abuja on Wednesday, Guinea-Bissau’s President Umaro Sissoco Embalo said that coups in Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso, and Niger were putting the future of ECOWAS in danger.
He also said that Bazoum was still the only recognized president of Niger and that coups should be stopped.