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ECOWAS Meets To Discuss Niger as Options Grow Limited

Regional countries are facing a crisis of legitimacy as they run out of options and time to restore democratic rule in Niger after soldiers ousted the president last month, say analysts.

Defense chiefs from the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, are meeting in Ghana today to discuss Niger’s crisis after a deadline passed for mutinous soldiers to release and reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum or face military intervention. Bazoum was overthrown in July and remains under house arrest with his wife and son in the capital, Niamey.

This is the first meeting since ECOWAS ordered the deployment of a “standby force” last week to restore constitutional rule in the country. It’s unclear if or when troops would intervene. A force would likely consist of several thousands soldiers from Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal and Benin and could take weeks or months to prepare, say conflict experts.

ECOWAS has a poor track record in stemming the region’s rampant coups: neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali have each had two within three years. Niger’s coup was seen by the international community and ECOWAS as one too many and in addition to threatening a military invasion, the bloc has imposed severe economic and travel sanctions.

But as time drags on with no military action and a standstill in negotiations, the junta is entrenching its power, leaving ECOWAS with few choices.

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