The 15-member of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), begun an emergency summit in Nigeria to discuss a new response to last month’s military takeover in Niger after the coup leaders defied their earlier threat to use force to restore democracy.
In an opening speech to the leaders of ECOWAS, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said on Thursday the bloc would be assessing solutions to the situation as the coup “poses a threat to the entire West African region”.
“It is our duty to exhaust all avenues of engagement to ensure a swift return to constitutional governance in Niger,” Tinubu who is also head of ECOWAS, said at the summit in Abuja before a closed-door session began.
Since the July 26 overthrow of Niger’s democratic leadership, the coup plotters have refused to relinquish power and release detained President Mohamed Bazoum, ignoring an August 6 deadline from ECOWAS to reinstate him.
The meeting in Abuja began hours after Niger’s coup leaders appointed a new interim government. Mahamane Roufai Laouali, cited as “secretary general of the government”, named 21 ministers, without specifying any further government plans.
It is unclear if there were any representatives from Burkina Faso, Guinea and Niger, whose military heads of state have sided with Niger, at the summit. However, the presidents of Mauritania – a founding ECOWAS member which withdrew from the bloc in December 2000 – and Burundi were in attendance, according to Al Jazeera’s Ahmed Idris, reporting from Abuja.
a source close to one of the mediation missions sent to Niger told Al Jazeera that the coup leaders want sanctions eased to aid the flow of medicine and food supplies and restoration of electricity.
But it remains unclear if ECOWAS will accede to any such demands as the bloc continues to seek Bazoum’s reinstatement.
“If the coup is allowed to succeed, it could dent the image of ECOWAS and make it look weak … and that could pose a serious threat to democracy, something that leaders here are eager to avoid,” Idris said.
Bazoum’s party has said the detained leader and his family are being at the presidential residence without electricity or running water and had gone days without fresh food. This led to United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres call for “his immediate, unconditional release and his reinstatement as Head of State,” a UN spokesperson said on Wednesday.