By. A. Kapini Atafori
The raging threat of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to invade the Republic of Niger shows that the sub-regional body has become the “local pawn” of France and the Unites States (U.S.), Mr Opoku Kyeretwie, the Convener of the Socialist Movement of Ghana (SMG), has declared.
“France and the U.S. are pushing ECOWAS to what will amount to a slaughter of West Africans,” Mr Kyeretwie stated.
He made the remarks when he was speaking on the much-patronized ‘Wednesday Palaver’ programme on Pan-African TV in Accra on 16th August.
On 26th July, members of Niger’s presidential guard deposed President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup; made General Abdourahmane Tchiani its leader; and formed the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP) government.
He said the heads of state of ECOWAS would not serve the interests of ordinary citizens in Niger and other West African states when they attack the former French colony.
He said ECOWAS leaders know that they are running undemocratic and unpopular governments which could be torpedoed in military takeovers or popular revolts; so their interests coincided with those of France and U.S.
intervening to reinstate deposed President Bazoum.
He said two-thirds of electricity produced by France is from Nigerien uranium and the country hosts a French military base, while the U.S. has its largest drone base in the former French colony.
Ironically, he noted that Niger, the second poorest country in the world, has 12 percent of electricity penetration, with no regular power and potable water. “Niger is poor because it is super-exploited by France,” he remarked.
On 16th August, insurgents attacked and killed 17 Nigerien soldiers and wounded 24 others.
This prompted ECOWAS to condemn the incident, and commiserate with families of the dead soldiers in a statement.
On 17th August, residents of Niamey, Niger’s capital, called for the mass recruitment of volunteers to assist the army to face off an impending ECOWAS force.
Unjustified ECOWAS militarism
Mr Kyeretwie said whether the coup-makers genuinely share the dislike of the people of Niger against the neo-colonial government of President Bazoum or not, ECOWAS cannot justify any intervention in Niger.
He observed that after ECOWAS intervened militarily in the protracted Liberian civil war, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau and Gambia, “ECOWAS’ role as a military enforcer has been growing over the years.”
It would be recalled that ECOWAS, led by Ghana and Nigeria under the military regimes of Flight-Lieutenant J.J. Rawlings and General Ibrahim Babangida, formed the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) to intervene in the internecine armed conflict in Liberia in August 1990.
In 1997, ECOMOG invaded Sierra Leone to reinstate President Tejan Kabbah after he was ousted in a coup led by Major Johnny Paul Koroma, and supported by the Revolutionary United Front rebels. In 1999, ECOMOG intervened to stop the Guinea-Bissau civil war.
ECOWAS deployed troops under the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) during the second civil war between 1999 and 2003, leading to the resignation and subsequent exile of President Charles Taylor.
A case of gunboat diplomacy?
In 2017 when President Yahya Jammeh, a military officer who overthrew President Dauda Jawara and later civilianized himself, refused to vacate office after losing elections to Adama Barrow, ECOWAS deployed troops led by Senegal into Gambia, resulting in the exit and exile of Jammeh after Barrow was sworn into power in Dakar, the Senegalese capital.
Mr Kyeretwie condemned the illegal attempt by a section of ECOWAS to invade Niger, stressing that an intervention would “easily lead to a situation of generalized war in West Africa.” He predicted there “there will be total chaos” since four members of ECOWAS, namely Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali and Niger, would be fighting against other member-states of the regional economic grouping.
He is not alone in denouncing ECOWAS intervention in Ghana. Many local security experts and analysts like Prof. Kwesi Enin, the Director of Research and Academic Affairs at the Kofi Annan Centre for Peace Keeping; Colonel Festus Aboagye (rtd.), a former commander of ECOMOG Ghanbatt (Task Force) in Liberia and teaching consultant at KAIPTC; Emmanuel Bombande, a conflict resolution and peacebuilding expert; Prof.
Vladimir Antwi-Danso, the Director of Academic Affairs at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College; and Dr Adam Bonaa, CEO of Security Warehouse Limited, among many others, have at different forums and times disapproved the use of force in Niger. Instead, they insisted on the application of diplomacy.
Furthermore, several foreign security experts and commentators have also reproached ECOWAS for intending to go to war with Niger.
For example, Wolfgang Lieberknech, the Coordinator of Initiative Black and White International, intimated that it was time for Francophone West Africa to end the debilitating politico-economic and geopolitical hegemony of France in an interaction on Onua TV on 15th August.
In the same programme, Andrej Hunko, the Deputy Chairperson of European United Left Parliament, berated ECOWAS and France for attempting to violate the sovereign will of Nigeriens.
But military chiefs of ECOWAS are meeting in Accra on 17th-18th August to deliberate on the option to invade Niger with a standby force.
At the meeting, it is expected that the Chiefs of Defence Staff will firm up the strategy for the planned intervention.
Mr Kyeretwie, a seasoned lawyer, politician and social activist, bemoaned the fact that ECOWAS never intervened to stop the “civilian coups” which overthrew constitutions in Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire and Togo.
“They were overthrowing the constitutions and ECOWAs had done nothing to protect the constitutions,” he added.
“The invasion of Niger is a match to spark the flame in West Africa. If they think that they can do it quickly, they are deluding themselves,” he continued.
He said when the coup becomes a popular event that later turns into a popular process, then the military junta led by Col.
Tchiani should allow the people of Niger to fashion out a new progressive constitution in a transitional period.
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