In a swift reaction to the military coup in Niger Republic, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has closed air and land borders, and declared no-flight zone over the country.
The decision was announced today by the ECOWAS, at a special meeting following the increasing tension stirred by the military actors who are attempting to take over in Niger.
This move is seen as a crucial reaction to the recent military coup in the country, which has posed a threat to political stability in the region.
The ECOWAS leadership said that the imposition of a no-flight zone will help curb the junta’s influence and hinder any potential allies from providing aerial support.
In addition to the no-flight zone, the regional body has agreed on immediate financial sanctions over the coup, and has given the junta a week to cede power.
It said that the use of force has not been ruled out.
ECOWAS reinstated its call for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum as the legitimate Head of State and Government of the Republic of Niger.
In a communique read by the President, ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Touray, the leaders also rejected any form of purported resignation by President Bazoum and declared him as the only recognised and elected President by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.
‘‘In this regard, only official acts of President Bazoum or his duly-mandated officials will be recognized by ECOWAS,’’ they said.
The leaders expressed strong condemnation of the attempted overthrow of constitutional order in Niger, and the illegal detention of President Bazoum, as well as members of his family and government.
They demanded full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger and considered the illegal detention of President Mohamed Bazoum as a hostage situation, holding the authors of the attempted coup d’état solely and fully responsible for his safety and security and that of his family and government.
In the event, ECOWAS’ demands are not met within one week, the leaders said they would take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.
“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect, the Chiefs of Defence staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately,’’ the leaders said.
ECOWAS leaders also condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors, while expressing appreciation to various governments and partners for their stance and solidarity.
The Summit also announced the immediate sanctions on Niger including the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger, establishing a no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger, and suspending all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Niger.
Assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Bank, Niger state enterprises, and parastatals in commercial banks will be frozen.
Niger will also be suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within ECOWAS.
In addition, travel bans and assets freezes were imposed on the military officials involved in the coup attempt, as well as their family members and civilians who accept to participate in any institution or government established by these military officials.
In an opening remarks, the ECOWAS chairman and President of Nigeria, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said that he called for the extraordinary submit of the body to address the situation in Niger Republic.
“We can’t pretend that we didn’t have the knowledge of what has happen and what is title happening.
“We have an hostage situation, an interruption to properly elected government of Niger Republic.
“Your presence here reflects your commitment to democracy, I appreciated that.
“It is a very challenging time for us. And it is at this time that we must demonstrate our commitment
to a sustainable fact clearly open that without freedom and democracy there can be no development, there can be no end to poverty.
“The danger that we are now is the fact that one of us, His Exellency, Mohammed Bozum, by his own army, the presidential Guard, what a calamity. It is an assault on every one of us. And we must take a very strong action. One, to protect the life of President Bazoum.”
President Tinubu said that disrupting the democratic order has led the people of Niger in a state of uncertainty and vulnerability, and that they their have to face the challenge “that we have right now.”
He recalled that during the 63rd ordinary summit, the authority set up a committee, comprising some of them to, to deepen reflections of security matters in the region and to accompany ECOWAS mediation.
Tinubu wanted members to focus on what he described as “these assaults.”
“I have briefed some of you about the actions that I have taken and prepared to abide by all resolutions necessary to response to this assault and to make sure
that our colleague, President Bazoum is safe and that democracy is reinstalled in Niger Republic.
“Whether we call it constructive dialogue or otherwise, whatever you and I resolve will make or mar our democratic credentials.
“I want us to strong, forceful and resolute about the survival of Bazoum as as well as the freedom and restoration of the constitutionally elected body in Niger Republic.”
In his closing remarks to the Summit, President Tinubu thanked fellow leaders, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson, the Special Representative of the Secretary -General and Head of the United Nations Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simaõ, for their active engagement and invaluable contributions to the discussions.
‘‘As we come close to this Extraordinary Summit on the socio- political situation in the Republic of Niger, I send my heartfelt gratitude to each and every one of you for your active engagement in our open and closed door meeting.
‘‘Your invaluable contributions to our discussions have got us this far and hopefully, we will achieve our objective.
‘‘The essence of African unity and solidarity is hereby reaffirmed. Our unwavering commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity is hereby resolved.
‘‘Throughout our deliberations, we have recognized that the challenges faced by Niger are inter connected with broader issues affecting our region.
‘‘As African leaders, it is our shared responsibility to foster stability and progress, placing the wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our endeavours, and working together towards their prosperity and happiness must always consistently, be our goals and consistently.
‘‘We will stand with our people in freedom and our commitment to the rule of law and not the barrel of gun. Africa has come of age.
‘‘We reject coup and interruption to constitutional order. Thank you for coming,’’ he said.
Before the Summit, President Tinubu held bilateral meetings with President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau, President Mahmat Iddris Deby Itno of Chad, and Michael Health, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of African Affairs.
Presidents Patrice Talon of Benin Republic, Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, Adama Barrow of The Gambia, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Embalo of Guinea Bissau, Macky Sall of Senegal, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo attended the Summit while the Presidents of Cape Verde, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone were represented.