ECOWAS Standby Force activated after Niger coup

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In the wake of the coup d’état in Niger, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is “immediately activating its Standby Force with all elements” ahead of deployment to its member country to restore constitutional order.

This is one of 12 decisions taken at an extraordinary sitting of the West African regional bloc’s heads of state and governments in Abuja this week (10 August). It followed one of 30 July with the “illegal detention” of President Mohamed Bazoum by the Niger Presidential Guard.

The Niger coup was again condemned along with Bazoum’s detention conditions with another decision to “uphold all measures and principles” agreed at the end-July summit as well as ECOWAS’ determination to seek peaceful resolution to the Niger situation.

Among measures to be enforced are border closure, travel bans and asset freezes to stop those “hindering peaceful efforts to ensure smooth and complete restoration of constitutional order”.

At the same time United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is “concerned” about Bazoum’s “deplorable living conditions” in “arbitrary detention”.

A note to journalists from the UN supremo includes a call for Bazoum’s “immediate and unconditional release and reinstatement as head of state”. He has been detained since 26 July.

The UN fears the crisis in Niger could impact the wider West African region and stressed the need to ensure ongoing humanitarian support to over four million people in the country.

This week, the World Food Programme (WFP) assisted 12 000 people in the Maradi region of south-central Niger, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said.

Heavy rains and floods continue across the country affecting at least 38 000 people since June with government and aid organisations ramping up support efforts.