Burkina Faso and Mali have warned ECOWAS against military intervention in Niger to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, saying such a move will be considered a “declaration of war against their two countries”.
The warning from Burkina Faso and Mali, two countries ruled by the military, comes a day after West African leaders, supported by their Western partners, threatened to use “force” to reinstate the democratically elected Bazoum and slapped financial sanctions on the Nigerien government.
At an emergency summit on Sunday July 30, ECOWAS demanded that Bazoum be reinstated within a week, failing which it would take “all measures” to restore constitutional order.
“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect,” it said in a statement.
The bloc also slapped financial sanctions on the junta leaders and the country, freezing “all commercial and financial transactions” between member states and Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, which often ranks last on the UN’s Human Development Index.
In a joint statement, the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali warned that “any military intervention against Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali.”
They said the “disastrous consequences of a military intervention in Niger… could destabilise the entire region.”
They also said they “refuse to apply” the “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane sanctions against the people and authorities of Niger.”
Ecowas’s last major military intervention was in The Gambia in 2017 when Yahya Jammeh refused to step down as president after losing elections to Adama Barrow. After West African troops deployed, Mr Jammeh went into exile in Equatorial Guinea.
The regional body also sent troops to support Guinea-Bissau’s government last year following a failed cop attempt there.
The move also comes as Russia also advised the Economic Community of West African States against the use of military intervention in the Niger crisis.
“Russia opposes a military solution to the conflict, Russia has no plans to use its armed forces in Niger. The people of Niger should solve their problems independently in a constitutional manner without any resort to force or threat to use it.” Russia’s Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr. Alexei Shebarshin, said.
French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday vowed “immediate and uncompromising” action if French citizens or interests were attacked, after thousands rallied outside the French embassy in Niamey. Some tried to enter the compound but were dispersed by tear gas.
Bazoum an ally of France, The US and the EU, whose election just over two years ago marked Niger’s first peaceful transition of power since independence from France in 1960 — was toppled on July 26 by the elite Presidential Guard.