A deadline to restore civilian government after the recent military coup in Niger expires on Sunday but the bloc of West African nations known as ECOWAS says it still prefers a diplomatic solution.
The ultimatum was presented by the West African bloc ECOWAS a week ago after the military toppled elected president Mohamed Bazoum. Failure to reinstate him opens up the possibility of using force.
“We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to the leaders of the Junta in Niger that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done,” explained Abdel-Fatau Musah, the bloc’s Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security.
But that hasn’t happened and there is no sign it will.
The coup leaders have severed military cooperation with former colonial rulers France, which has 1,500 troops based in Niger.
ECOWAS says it has a plan in place for military intervention but it will not elaborate on the details.
Two neighbouring countries, Mali and Burkina-Faso, who have both been subject to recent coups, strongly opposed ECOWAS moves and have promised military support for Niger in case of foreign intervention.
There are also reports in Western media that the coup leaders in Niger have requested support from the Russian mercenary group Wagner.
Niger has been seen as the West’s last reliable counterterrorism partner in a region where coups have been common in recent years. Juntas have rejected former coloniser France and turned toward Russia.
Wagner operates in a handful of African countries, including Mali, where human rights groups have accused its forces of deadly abuses.