By Solomon Odeniyi
The Economic Community of West African States Chiefs of Defence Staff on Friday, resolved to place dialogue at the forefront of the regional body’s approach to resolving the crisis in Niger Republic.
This is as the body said it acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security, and diplomatic dimensions.
The chairman of the region’s Defence Chiefs, General Musa Christopher, stated this while reading the communiqué from the meeting to select journalists in Abuja.
The PUNCH had reported that Defence Chiefs from Nigeria, Benin, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Côte D’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Senegal, and Guinea Bissau arrived in the country for a meeting on the military junta in Niger.
Musa noted that the committee recognised the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for a well-coordinated response.
He said, “We have acknowledged the need for a comprehensive approach that encompasses political, security, and diplomatic dimensions. It is imperative that we translate our deliberations into concrete actions that can effectively address the crisis and prevent a recurrence in the future.
“Firstly, we must emphasise the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law. The coup in the Niger Republic represents a blatant disregard for these fundamental principles that underpin our regional integration and stability. We must unequivocally condemn such actions and demonstrate our unwavering commitment to democracy.
“Secondly, we must strengthen our regional security architecture and enhance our collective response to security challenges. The coup in the Niger Republic has highlighted the fragility of our region and the need for a robust and proactive security framework. We must enhance intelligence sharing, joint training exercises, and capacity-building initiatives among our defense and security forces to effectively combat threats to our collective security and enhance interoperability.
“Thirdly, we must intensify our diplomatic efforts to engage with all relevant stakeholders. Dialogue and negotiation should be at the forefront of our approach to resolving the crisis in the Republic of Niger. We must engage with the transitional authorities, civil society organisations, and other key actors to foster an inclusive and peaceful transition process. ”
Musa urged other Defence Chiefs to ensure that their expertise and resources are channelled to tackle insecurity in the region.
He said, “We must leverage our collective expertise and resources to address emerging security challenges promptly.
“Let us remember that the success of this meeting will not be measured by the words spoken here today, but by the actions we take tomorrow and, in the days to come. Let us seize this opportunity to make a lasting impact and ensure that the Niger Republic and the entire ECOWAS region can progress on the path of democracy, peace, and stability.
“We must allocate the necessary resources, engage relevant stakeholders, and monitor progress to ensure that our decisions have a tangible impact on the ground”.
Also speaking, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, ECOWAS, Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, said the authority of the Heads of State of ECOWAS was committed to eradicating all forms of unconstitutional takeover of power in the sub-region.
Musah said the threat of military takeover in West Africa had become pronounced in recent times, saying that efforts must be made to address the situation if the region must not become the laughing stock of Africa and the world.
He said the meeting of the defence chiefs was guided by the Protocol relating to the mechanism for conflict prevention, management, resolution, peacekeeping, and security, which was adopted in 1999 and signed up by all Member States in 2001.
“Respected chiefs of defense staff of our region, this is a clarion call to you. This is a test of the will of our militaries to demonstrate that we are having a democratically minded military whose responsibility is the protection of the state.
“So diplomacy is being given a chance to succeed and like we said, the military option is the very last on the table. And if we can avoid that, a peaceful resolution is our preferred option but we have to prepare for all eventualities.