Nigeria’s Chiefs of Defence Staff (CDS), Gen. Christopher Musa has called for “collective attention and a united response” among ECOWAS defence chiefs to restore democratic governance in Niger.
Musa spoke during a meeting of the defence chiefs of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on Wednesday in Abuja.
The meeting was attended by 10 countries including Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Liberia, Ghana, Gambia, Cote D’voire, Cape Varde, Benin and Senegal, while Mali, Niger, Guinea, Guinea Bissau and Burkina Faso were absent.
The meeting was in response to the directive of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of ECOWAS during its Extraordinary Session in Abuja on Jul 30.
The CDS said the region must face the challenges of restoring democratic governance in Niger head-on, drawing on their shared experiences, wisdom, and collective resolve.
Musa, who is the current President of the ECOWAS Committee of CDS, said the decisions that would be taken at the meeting would have far-reaching implications for the ECOWAS region.
“Accordingly, this extraordinary meeting is a fall out of the Final Communique of that Meeting.
“To this end, we are assembled here today not only as heads of our various Armed Forces, but also as members of an interrelated regional community.
“The events that transpired in one of our countries on July 26 has reverberated across our borders, affecting us all.
“The recent coup d’etat in the Republic of Niger is one event that calls for our collective attention and a united response.
“We must face the challenges of restoring democratic governance in Niger head-on, drawing on our shared experiences, wisdom, and collective resolve.
“ECOWAS’ strength lies in unity, shared values, and commitment to democracy, peace, and prosperity.
“In this regard, we are tasked with a mission to restore democracy in the Republic of Niger and preserve germane humanitarian principles across the region.
“Our decisions will inevitably shape the lives of millions of people around the sub-continent,” he said.
Musa said the ECOWAS, since its establishment, had remained steadfast in promoting economic cooperation and regional integration, and had stood against any form of illegal takeover of power, as enshrined in the 2001 Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance.
He said it was the principle that compelled them to convene the meeting to address the current situation in Niger.
He added that the political instability in Niger was a source of grave concern for all, adding that it threatens the countries’ shared vision of a peaceful, secure, and prosperous West Africa.
He said that the vision would be impossible to achieve amidst political upheavals and disruptions to constitutional order.
“Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to deliberate on this issue and chart a course towards resolution, in accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.
“We are not oblivious to the complex challenges that lie ahead. The task of restoring democratic governance in Niger is fraught with potential hurdles and complications.
“However, we cannot afford to be hamstrung by these challenges. Instead, we must confront them head-on, drawing upon our shared experiences, wisdom, and the strength of our collective resolve.
“Our decisions will send a strong message about our commitment to democracy, our intolerance for unconstitutional changes of government, and our dedication to regional stability.”
The CDS therefore called for openness, frankness, and constructive dialogue in their discussion and encouraged all to contribute fully and freely, listen attentively to each other, and work collaboratively towards a solution that would serve the best interests of the people of Niger.
The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS, Amb. Abdel-Fatau Musah, said the authority of the Heads of State of ECOWAS was committed to eradication of all forms unconstitutional takeover of power in the sub region.
Musah said the region was currently confronted with two existential threats which were mutually reinforcing.
The first one, according to him, is the asymmetric environment characterised by terrorism, refugee flows, poisoning of intercommunal relations which have led to the second existential threat, the return of the military to power in the region.
He said there had been about eight to nine successful and unsuccessful coups in West Africa in the last three years, adding that all memberships of ECOWAS were led by democratically elected president before three years ago.
Musah said the threat of military takeover in West Africa had become pronounced in recent times, saying that efforts must be made to address the situation if the region must not become the laughing stock of Africa and the world.
He said there was need to demonstrate that the ECOWAS could go beyond backing and that it could also bite.
He said the meeting of the defence chiefs was guided by the Protocol relating to the mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping and security, which was adopted in 1999 and signed up to by all Member States in 2001.
Musah said the supplementary protocol of democracy and good governance also declared zero tolerance for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means by sitting heads of state who tweaked their constitutions to prolong their stay in power.
“We are of the view that the situation in Niger where democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum has been taken hostage together with his family and being used as a form in negotiations, is a hostage situation and we need to revert that.
“W also need to restore constitutional order in the country by reinstating the overthrown president. Those are the two clear instructions given by the heads of state and they have given the military leaders led by General Giani, seven days to make good the directives of the heads of state.
“Today the third day but when the seven days elapse, anything can happen and as the heads of ECOWAS have said, nothing is off the table.
“So respected chiefs of defense staff of our region, this is a clarion call to you. This is a test of the will of our militaries to demonstrate that we are having a democratically minded military whose responsibility is the protection of the state.
“So the diplomacy is being given a chance to succeed and like we said, the military option is the very last on the table.
“And if we can avoid that, a peaceful resolution is our preferred option but we have to prepare for all eventualities.
“The time has come again for ECOWAS to show that we are a rules-based organisation, we are rule based countries; we cannot allow the rule by the Ballot Box to be replaced by the rule of Kalashnikovs,” he said.
Source: News Agency of Nigeria