Concerned about what might be the consequences of the proposed military intervention in Niger Republic, the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa (RECOWA) has urged the Authority of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government to restrain from the use of force to restore the constitutional regime in the country.
RECOWA, comprising all Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops in West Africa, also urged the sub-regional leaders to learn from what happened in Libya in 2011, describing it as a tragic example of the disastrous consequences for people’s lives, dignity and future.
They expressed their concerns in a two-page letter addressed to the President of ECOWAS, Heads of State of ECOWAS and the Transitional Authorities in Niger on August 7, calling for dialogue and reconciliation rather than belligerence and military response.
The letter, signed by the President of RECOWA and Bishop of Agboville, Most Rev. Alexis Touabli Youlo, was sequel to the military coup that displaced the democratically elected government of President Mohammed Bazoum in Niger Republic and the resolve of the ECOWAS Authority to deploy all means necessary, even the use of force, to restore the constitutional regime in Niger.
Despite a seven-day ultimatum issued to the military regime led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani to restore Niger’s constitutional government, all other diplomatic measures taken by the ECOWAS, African Union, European Union and the United Nations to resolve the Niger crisis have not brought about order and stability to the troubled country.
In its two-page letter, therefore, RECOWA canvassed pacifism rather belligerence in the management of this crisis, inviting every actor within outside the sub-region to show restraint, discernment and responsibility.
The letter read in part: “We, the Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops of the Reunion of Episcopal Conferences of West Africa, after consultations, are deeply concerned by the sub-regional tension linked to the political situation in Niger. Faced with the events currently unfolding in the sub-region, the lives of the people of West Africa are at stake.
“Keeping as our central vision the integrity of the people and emphasising respect for human dignity and a high sense of accountability to mankind, history and God the Creator, we affirm that nothing can justify the creation or facilitation of an environment that is destructive to our people.”
The letter sternly observed that no individual, national, regional, geo-political or denominational interest or project should take precedence over the preservation of life, human dignity and the well being of the future generation in West Africa and beyond.
On this ground, the letter further read: “We, your pastors, are convinced, and the history of people teaches us that violence does not solve any problem, not even the one that triggered it. We affirm that any military intervention in Niger at this time would contemplate the situation of the people of Niger and the sub-region more than it would provide solutions.
“Terrorism already has a macabre toll of widows, orphans, displaced persons, the hungry, the maimed and so on. People are not expecting the regional, African and other institutions to add to this toll,” the Catholic bishops of West Africa observed in its letter to the sub-regional leaders.
In retrospect, the bishops cited the military intervention in Libya by the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2011, describing the military intervention as a tragic example of the disastrous consequences for people’s lives, dignity and future.
They, therefore, said: “We cannot remain silent in the face of such situations and must learn lessons to ensure that such events do not happen again, particularly with Niger as a potential epicentre of a similar crisis. As a Bishops’ conference, our mission is intimately linked to the promotion of reconciliation and peace.
“We firmly believe that every human being is called to live in peace and to be a peacemaker in accordance with the teachings of the Bible and those of the holy books of other religious confessions, which exhort us to work for reconciliation and brotherhood between all peoples.
“Peace is a precious gift that we must cultivate and preserve together. It is like a common mat that we must weave together with each person contributing to his or her own thread,” the bishops canvassed measures to deepen and promote peace within the sub-region.
They also challenged on all men, women, and national, sub-regional and international organisations to play a positive role in easing tensions and promoting lasting peace, noting that the people of the region “love and accept each other and are constantly seeking to improve their coexistence.
“This is a natural gift that we must support and encourage. Every actor and institution should contribute positively to this process by promoting dialogue and cooperation,” the bishops further demanded.
They called on the African Union and ECOWAS to show responsibility before history and to revisit their respective missions. At this critical and delicate time, according to them, it is essential that these organisations play an active role in the search for peaceful and lasting solutions, putting the interests of the people and respect for their dignity first.
The bishops called on the sub-regional leaders to respond decisively to this call for restraint, discernment and responsibility, but work together to build a future of peace and prosperity for West Africa region and Africa as a whole.