*Junta leaders evacuate families to Dubai, Burkina Faso
*SADC supports AU, regional bloc’s positions
Chuks Okocha, Kingsley Nwezeh and Michael Olugbode in Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was ready to intervene militarily in Niger Republic if diplomatic efforts to persuade the ruling military junta, which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a July 26 coup, to restore democracy in the country failed. ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, disclosed this yesterday in Ghana at a gathering of West African defence chiefs, who were meeting to deliberate on a standby force.
“Let no one be in doubt that if everything else fails, the valiant forces of West Africa…are ready to answer to the call of duty,” Reuters quoted Musah as saying. “By all means available, constitutional order will be restored in the country,” he added.
Meanwhile, as ECOWAS readied troops for possible intervention in Niger Republic, there were indications that members of the ruling military junta might be relocating their families to safety in Dubai and Burkina Faso.
The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) in Nigeria said they were in support of the action taken so far by both African Union (AU) and ECOWAS on the political situation in Niger.
However, all member states of ECOWAS, except those under military rule and Cape Verde, said they were ready to participate in the standby force.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, General Christopher Gwabin Musa, said at the start of the two-day meeting in Accra, “Democracy is what we stand for and it’s what we encourage…
“The focus of our gathering is not simply to react to events, but to proactively chart a course that results in peace and promotes stability.”
The meeting to discuss Niger’s crisis came after the August 6 deadline for the mutinous soldiers to release and reinstate Bazoum or face military intervention. Bazoum has remained under house arrest with his wife and son in Niger’s capital, Niamey.
ECOWAS had long deliberated on the use of force, which it described as a “last resort” due to several mediation teams it sent to Niamey and also for a lack of consensus within its ranks.
Burkina Faso and Mali, which have experienced multiple coups since 2020, warned that any military intervention in Niger would be declared as an act of war, revealing a fracture in the region between its coastal countries and those in the volatile Sahel.
Guinea, which is also under military rule and had condemned any external aggression, refrained from making any other comments.
The top security body of AU met on Monday to consider whether it would support military intervention, but had yet to make its decision public.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council could overrule a military intervention if it felt that wider stability on the continent was threatened by it. If it rejected the use of force, there were few grounds under which ECOWAS could claim legal justification.
Niger Junta Leaders Evacuating Families
There were strong indications that members of the Niger junta had begun to evacuate their families to Bukina Faso and Dubai over the threat of invasion by ECOWAS.
The exercise was, reportedly, carried out at the country’s Agadez Airport, a few days ago, and it involved Gulfstream G550 jets.
A source familiar with the movement said, “In the night of Friday, 11th to Saturday 12th of August 2023, the Nigerien junta, under the command of General Tchiani, evacuated all the putschists’ families. Indeed, several Gulfstream G550 type aircraft (in particular flight No. BFY824R) took off from Agadez Airport to Burkina Faso and Dubai with their women and children on board.”
According to the source, “General Tchiani appears to have had intelligence of an imminent attack by ECOWAS. He protects his family and leaves Nigerien people behind to a certain death. While he shelters his family, Tchiani is ready to send soldiers into a fratricidal war.
“Like any selfish and totalitarian putschists, he already uses state finances for personal purposes. It is at the expense of the Nigerien state that he sends his family to live richly under the Dubai sun. The junta does not hesitate a moment to set ablaze Niger while preparing a golden exit in Dubai.”
SADC Supports AU, ECOWAS Positions
SADC in Nigeria threw its weight behind the actions taken so far by AU and ECOWAS to force the military junta, led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, to restore Bazoum to power.
The organisation is made up of citizens of Zimbabwe, Zambia, Botswana, DR Congo, South Africa, Angola, Tanzania, and Namibia.
Speaking with journalists at Hope of Survival Ophanage Home, Abuja, where SADC donated food items to orphans as part of activities to mark its anniversary, the High Commissioner of Namibia to Nigeria and the Dean of the SADC, H.E. Humphrey Geiseb, said Southern Africa was part of AU and was definitely concerned about the coups, as expressed by ECOWAS and AU.
Geiseb stated, “So, we are fully behind the statements and positions of ECOWAS and the African Union.”
He noted that Southern African region was mostly peaceful, as, “We hold regular elections and democracy is very strong in our region.”
Geiseb said there was need for continuity of democracy everywhere on the continent.