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ECOWAS Ultimatum to Niger Tests Regional Resolve

ECOWAS Ultimatum to Niger Tests Regional Resolve
| NewsAfrica | Africa, Politics

Abuja, Nigeria - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given the new military junta in Niger one week to release ousted president Mahamadou Issoufou or face regional sanctions. However, some observers question whether ECOWAS has the resolve or capacity to enforce its ultimatum.

ECOWAS has a mixed track record of following through on threats against member states with military coups and unconstitutional changes of power. For example, ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Mali after the 2020 coup, but lifted them less than two years later despite delayed elections.

In Guinea, ECOWAS has yet to enact proposed sanctions after more than a year since the coup took place. Critics say half-hearted implementation reflects competing interests among West African leaders, some who have themselves taken power by force.

When it comes to Niger specifically, ECOWAS faces structural challenges to organizing an effective response. Landlocked Niger relies on coastal states like Benin, Togo and Ghana for access to ports. These countries may be reluctant to close borders.

Military resources are also limited, with few member states having the capability to intervene directly. The rotating ECOWAS Standby Force lacks training and equipment. Compared to the junta, ECOWAS has fewer tactical options.

If the Niger junta ignores the ultimatum, ECOWAS will face a tough choice between upholding democratic norms versus tacit acceptance of the coup. Its credibility as a regional bloc depends on following through on its threats.

Yet norms alone may not budge determined coup leaders. Effective leverage will require ECOWAS to marshal real economic and diplomatic pressure. That will test the political will of all its members, not just the secretariat.

The crisis speaks to larger unresolved challenges with building regional security institutions in West Africa. Unless ECOWAS can match its rhetoric with resolve, coups and instability are likely to persist.

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