Niger junta closes airspace as ECOWAS appears divided on military intervention
Niger’s coup leaders have closed the country’s airspace, thus further escalating regional tensions after the coup two weeks ago, but support for ECOWAS military intervention to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum seems to be waning, revealing differences of opinion among the 15 West African member states on how to proceed.
Niger’s airspace has been closed as the putschists alleged there had been a pre-deployment of troops in two Central African nations for military intervention. The move came as tens of thousands of coup supporters gathered Sunday (6 August) at a stadium in the country’s capital, Niamey, to cheer on the generals who seized power – or the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP). ECOWAS has condemned the coup, imposing severe economic and travel sanctions, including cutting off Niger’s power supply. ECOWAS ultimatum for President Bazoum to be reinstated has been rejected by the junta.
West African military chiefs said on Friday (4 August) they have made a plan for a possible military intervention in Niger if coup leaders do not stand down. France said on Saturday (5 August) it will support efforts to overturn Niger’s military coup. Now with the deadline already expired, support for a West African military operation wavered, as senators in Nigeria — which would lead any intervention — urged regional leaders to prioritize diplomacy over a military operation, at least for now. Also Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani suggested in an interview published on Monday (7 August) that ECOWAS should prolong their deadline for the reinstatement of Niger’s ousted president because ”the only way is the diplomatic one.”