The crisis in Niger is heading towards no solution even as Western African nations suspended a key military meeting on the crisis in Niger citing technical reasons.
This follows a day after they said that they would muster a “standby” force in their bid to reinstate the country’s deposed leader elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
Ghana’s capital Accra was to host a meeting of Chiefs of staff from West African ECOWAS bloc countries on Saturday which has now been suspended.
The meeting was planned to inform the organization’s leaders about “the best options” for activating and deploying the standby force.
Even as the ECOWAS leaders stressed that they want a peaceful solution, the military options also remain open on which they are yet to provide details of the force to be used or a timetable of action.
French military base in Niger witnessed large protests as thousands of coup supporters gathered at the site brandishing Russian and Niger flags. They were raising slogans supporting the country’s new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani.
The new government has accused that ex-colonial power France, a close Bazoum ally, has been orchestrating tough ECOWAS stance against the new leadership.
France has been maintaining a military presence in Niger for the last 8 years for fighting jihadist insurgency having 1,500 personnel stationed in the country.
France has been facing deep anger in the region which forced it to remove its anti-jihadist forces from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso last year which witnessed military coups.
The US also maintains a presence in the country with 1,300 personnel. The United States and Niger signed a status of forces agreement in January 2013 which allows U.S. troops and aircraft to operate in Niger in a non-combat capacity to support French counterterrorism efforts.
Niger has been at the center of the U.S. and Europe’s battle against al Qaeda and Islamic State militants.
Meanwhile, several countries including India have asked their citizens to leave the country as soon as possible even as the air space remains closed.
“The Government of India is closely monitoring ongoing developments in Niger. In light of the prevailing situation, Indian nationals whose presence is not essential are advised to leave the country as soon as possible. They may bear in mind that air space is currently closed. When departing through a land border, utmost precautions may be taken to ensure safety and security,” said the Indian Ministry of External Affairs.
It also cautioned against traveling to Niger saying “Those who may be planning travel to Niger in the coming days are also similarly advised to reconsider their travel plans until the situation normalizes.”