Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, three West African nations, have backed the coup leaders in Niger, a move that poses a threat to regional stability.
Previous coups in Burkina Faso and Mali were triggered in part by frustrations over the failure of authorities to stem an Islamist insurgency nagging the Sahel region, which includes Niger.
Following a tense 48 hours of political upheaval in Niamey, Niger’s capital, Abdourahamane Tiani, a general and former head of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum’s presidential guard, declared himself as the new head of state.
Tiani said the intervention had been necessary to avoid “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country, and that while Bazoum had sought to convince people that “all is going well… the harsh reality (is) a pile of dead, displaced, humiliation and frustration”.
In a joint statement on Monday from Mali and Burkina Faso, the countries warned ECOWAS against any further interventions that would “jeopardise the spirit of Pan-Africanism” and threatened a withdrawal from the regional bloc.
The countries also said any military intervention against Niger would force them to also adopt “self-defense measures” in support of the “brotherly” armed forces and the people of Niger.
The statement said the countries expressed their fraternal solidarity with the Nigerian people “who have decided in full responsibility to take their destiny into their own hands and to assume before history the fullness of their sovereignty”.
“The Transitional Governments of Burkina Faso and Mali are deeply indignant and surprised by the imbalance observed between, on the one hand, the celerity and the adventurous attitude of certain political leaders in West Africa wishing to use force armed forces to restore constitutional order in a sovereign country,” the statement reads.
“And on the other hand, the inaction, indifference and passive complicity of these organizations and political leaders in helping states and peoples who have been victims of terrorism for a decade and left to their fate.
“In any case, the Transitional Governments of Burkina Faso and Mali invite the living forces to be ready and mobilized, in order to lend a hand to the people of Niger, in these dark hours of Pan-Africanism.”
In an ECOWAS extraordinary session on Sunday, presided over by President Bola Tinubu, its chairperson, in Abuja, a resolution was reached to impose several sanctions on Niger over the military coup.
ECOWAS also issued a one-week ultimatum for the coup plotters to hand over power to the democratically elected government.
The decision comes days after President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic was deployed by the bloc to Niger to assess the situation.
Tinubu had strongly condemned the coup, saying ECOWAS would not tolerate any anti-democratic acts.
Tinubu also assured that the union will do everything to ensure that peace returns to Niger and the region at large.