ECOWAS ready to deploy standby force, ease Niger Republic sanctions

By Ismail Abdulaziz

ECOWAS leaders have resolved to urgently review efforts to activate a standby force for counterterrorism operations in areas infested by terrorist groups in the region.

This is contained in a communiqué read by Dr Omar Touray, President of ECOWAS Commission at the end of the 64th ordinary session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS, on Sunday in Abuja.

The leaders reiterated their commitment to the eradication of terrorism and other threats to peace, security, and stability in the region.

They also resolved to hold an extraordinary summit on unconstitutional changes of government aimed at promoting peace, security, and democracy in the region.

The ECOWAS leaders directed the commission to embark on deep reflection and explore the possibility of convening the extraordinary summit.

The ECOWAS, chaired by President Bola Tinubu, also established a committee of Heads of State to engage with CMSP, the military junta in Niger Republic, on the need for a short transition roadmap and the emplacement of monitoring mechanisms.

Members of the Committee are the Heads of States of Togo, Sierra Leone and Benin.

They are to engage with the coup leaders and other stakeholders to agree on a short transition roadmap, establishment of transition organs, and monitoring and evaluation mechanisms towards the speedy restoration of constitutional order.

“Based on the outcomes of the engagement by the committee of Heads of state with the CMSP, the Authority will progressively ease the sanctions imposed on Niger.

“In the event of failure by the CMSP to comply with the outcomes of the engagement with the committee, ECOWAS shall maintain all sanctions, including the use of force.

“And shall request the African Union and all other partners to enforce the targeted sanctions on members of the CMSP and their associates.”

The bloc emphasized the need for the immediate and unconditional release of detained Niger President, Mohammed Bazoum.

“The Authority deeply deplores the continued detention of President Mohammed Bazoum, his family and associates by the CMSP regime.

“The Authority further deplores the lack of commitment on the part of the CMSP to restore constitutional order.

“Consequently, the Authority calls on the CMSP to release President Mohammed Bazoum, his family, and associates immediately and without precondition.”

The meeting chaired by Tinubu, commended the efforts being made by member states and the ECOWAS commission to work on the consolidation of democracy, peace, security, and stability in the region.

The Authority noted, in particular, the peaceful elections that took place during the year in Nigeria, Guinea Bissau, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

They welcomed the peaceful resolution of the electoral dispute in Nigeria, as well as the peaceful outcome of the dialogue between the opposition and the government in the Republic of Sierra Leone.

On the fight against terrorism and other related security matters, the leaders instructed the commission to convene a meeting of ministers of finance and defence in the region.

The meeting will agree on modalities for the mobilisation of internal financial, human, and material resources on a mandatory basis, to support the deployment of a regional counterterrorism force.

“The Authority takes note of the commencement of assignment by the Special Envoy on Counterterrorism, Ambassador Baba Kamara, and directs the commission to facilitate his mission.”

The ECOWAS leaders also directed the commission to intensify collaboration with sub-regional counterterrorism initiatives such as the Accra initiative and MTJN.

The meeting urged member states to increase funding for joint maritime operations and exercises, and improve coordination and collaboration among various ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for maritime security.

The meeting implored Gambian government and stakeholders to expedite the adoption of the new constitution ahead of the 2026 general elections.

They also called for the implementation of the white paper on the recommendations of the Truth, Reparation and Reconciliation Commission in Gambia.

The leaders extended the mandate of the ECOWAS Mission in The Gambia by one year and instructed it to continue to support the country in the implementation of the white paper and reforms of the defence and security sector.

On Guinea Bissau, the leaders strongly condemned the violence that erupted in Bissau on Dec. 1, and attempts to disrupt constitutional order and rule of law in the country.

Commending the action of the loyal members of the security forces of Guinea Bissau, the ECOWAS leaders expressed solidarity with the people and the constitutional authority of the country.

The meeting extended the ECOWAS stabilisation support mission in Guinea Bissau, and instructed the commission to take steps to review the mandate of the mission.

Condemning the attempted coup in Sierra Leone on Nov. 26, the leaders expressed sadness over the loss of lives and destruction of property and called for a thorough and transparent investigation to identify and bring the perpetrators to justice.

They applauded the signing of the agreement for national unity resulting from mediated dialogue between the government and the opposition party in Sierra Leone.

The meeting called on all parties and stakeholders to implement the agreement in good faith within the specified timeframe.

The ECOWAS leaders directed the commission to continue supporting Sierra Leone and facilitate the deployment of an ECOWAS standby security mission for stabilisation.

On Senegal, the Authority of Heads of State and government took note of preparations for the Feb. 25, 2024 presidential election in the country, while urging inclusivity and transparency in the electoral process.

They called on the Senegalese government and stakeholders to adhere strictly to constitutional norms, ECOWAS protocols, and the rule of law in managing all electoral processes.(NAN)