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Niger coup: ECOWAS military chiefs meet in Ghana

Military chiefs from West African states on Thursday began two days of discussions in Ghana’s capital of Accra about the ongoing crisis in Niger.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS said the meeting was being held “to finalize plans for the deployment of the Standby Force.”

The talks come after a deadline for mutinous soldiers to release and reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum passed earlier this month.

Bazoum has been under house arrest since the July 26 coup, which saw members of Niger’s presidential guard, headed by Abdourahmane Tiani, seize power.

The military regime announced on Monday that it would bring Bazoum to trial on charges of high treason. The United Nations and ECOWAS condemned the decision to try Bazoum.

Last week ECOWAS said it had ordered the activation of its “standby force” in order to “restore constitutional order in Niger.”

Concern that intervention may lead to wider conflict

Commentators have expressed concern that the ultimatum by ECOWAS for the military junta to release Bazoum or face military intervention could plunge the wider region into conflict.

“ECOWAS has few good options … particularly as the [junta] seems unwilling for the moment to cede to outside pressure,” Andrew Lebovich, a research fellow with Dutch think tank the Clingendael Institute, told AP. “An intervention could backfire and damage the organization in numerous ways, while a failure to extract major concessions from the [junta] could weaken the organization politically at an already fragile time.”

Any decision to resort to a military intervention could still be overruled by the African Union’s Peace and Security Council, which authorizes the mounting and deployment of peace support missions.

Neighbors warn against military intervention

Niger’s neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, both ruled by military governments that seized power in coups, say an armed intervention in Niger would be tantamount to a declaration of war on their countries.

France and the United States have around 2,500 military personnel in the country who have been involved in training and, in the case of France, conducting joint operations against a jihadi insurgency.

Since the coup, both countries have suspended military operations, which some believe is spurring on jihadi attacks. On Tuesday, at least 17 Nigerien soldiers were killed and nearly two dozen wounded in the Tillaberi region in the biggest attack by insurgents in six months.

The meeting of regional military chiefs will begin at 0900 UTC on Thursday, with talks expected to end on Friday afternoon.

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