ECOWAS eager for war with Niger official says long negotiations will lead nowhere as WFP calls for lifting of sanctions
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will not engage in prolonged negotiations with Niger’s new military government, the bloc’s commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, said on Wednesday, according to the Associated Press.
Musah made the comment while reiterating the 15-nation bloc’s rejection of a proposal by the Nigerien coup leaders to transition to civilian rule within three years following their overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum last month.
Abdel-Fatau Musah, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) commissioner for political affairs and security, addresses the media on the verdict of their deliberations in Accra on August 18, 2023. © GERARD NARTEY / AFP
“We are not going to engage in long, drawn out haggling with these military officers. We went down that route in Mali, in Burkina Faso and elsewhere, and we are getting nowhere,” he told AP.
Niger’s military ruler, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, announced last Saturday after meeting with an ECOWAS delegation that the principles of the transition to democratic rule would be decided within 30 days, with the process itself taking no more than three years.
Speaking to AP, Musah described Tchiani’s proposed timeline as a “provocative” move, adding that while direct and indirect talks are ongoing, the door to diplomacy is not open “indefinitely.”
“It is the belief among the ECOWAS heads of state and also the commission that the coup in Niger is one coup too many for the region and if we allow it then we are going to have a domino effect in the region and we are determined to stop it,” the official said.
Stranded trucks with goods are seen at the border between Nigeria and Niger in Jibia, Nigeria, Monday, Aug. 7, 2023. © AP Photo / Mohammed Babangida
The bloc said last week that it was ready to send troops into Niger to free Bazoum and restore his rule if diplomatic efforts failed. Niger’s military rulers have condemned the regional authority’s sanctions and threats to use force against them, accusing it of acting at the behest of foreign powers.
Musah, on the other hand, has denied the allegations, claiming that the ECOWAS plan for military intervention was based solely on the resources of member states and that no external partners were involved.
ECOWAS restricted financial transactions and blocked entry into Niger from its member states in order to force the July 26 coup plotters to reinstate Bazoum.
The World Food Programme (WFP) warned last week that the blockade was “greatly affecting the supply of vital foods and medical supplies into Niger,” where it claimed at least 3.3 million people were already “acutely food-insecure” prior to the coup.
Margot van der Velden, the UN food agency’s acting regional director for Western Africa, has urged “all parties to facilitate humanitarian exemptions, enabling immediate access to people in need of critical food and basic necessities.”
The WFP’s West African regional spokesperson, Djaounsede Madjiangar, has also told the media that about 6,000 tonnes of goods from the agency, including cereals, cooking oil, and food for malnourished children, are stuck outside Niger.
Businesses in the country’s southern neighbor, Nigeria, have expressed concern about the impact of the sanctions on cross-border trade. Some residents told the Associated Press that business owners have taken advantage of the border closure to raise the prices of goods.