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ECOWAS defence chiefs meet in Abuja to re-strategise over Niger coup

A two-day meeting of the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff of the Economic Community of West African States(ECOWAS) has opened in Abuja to deliberate on the latest political developments in the Republic of Niger.

The meeting, which is holding at the Defence Headquarters (DHQ), Abuja, is being attended by Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, who doubles as chairman of the body as well as the Chiefs of Defence Staff from Benin, Ghana, Togo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, The Gambia, Cote D’Ivoire, Cabo Verde, and Senegal.

However, the chiefs of defence staff from Niger, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Guinea Bissau were conspicuously absent at the meeting, indicating the countries’ opposition to ECOWAS’ stance on Niger Republic.

In his address at the meeting, the Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), General Christopher Musa, while noting that the coup in Niger calls for collective attention and a united response, charged the ECOWAS defence chiefs to face the challenges of restoring democratic governance in Niger head-on, drawing their shared experiences, wisdom and collective resolve.

Gen Musa, who noted that the decisions taken at the meeting would have far-reaching implications for the ECOWAS region, said: “The recent coup d’etat in the Republic of Niger is one event that calls for our collective attention and a united response. We must face the challenges of restoring democratic governance in Niger head-on, drawing on our shared experiences, wisdom, and collective resolve.

He said: “ECOWAS’ strength lies in unity, shared values, and commitment to democracy, peace, and prosperity. In this regard, we are tasked with a mission to restore democracy in the Republic of Niger and preserve germane humanitarian principles across the region. Our decisions will inevitably shape the lives of millions of people around the sub-continent.

“The ECOWAS, since its establishment, has remained steadfast in its commitment to promoting economic cooperation and regional integration. Equally, it has been resolute in its stand against any form of illegal takeover of power, as enshrined in the 2001 Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance. It is this principle that compels us to convene today and address the current situation in Niger. The political instability in Niger is a source of grave concern for us all. It threatens our shared vision of a peaceful, secure, and prosperous West Africa, a vision that is impossible to achieve amidst political upheavals and disruptions to constitutional order. Therefore, it is incumbent upon us to deliberate on this issue and chart a course towards resolution, in accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law, and respect for human rights.

“We are not oblivious to the complex challenges that lie ahead. The task of restoring democratic governance in Niger is fraught with potential hurdles and complications. However, we cannot afford to be hamstrung by these challenges. Instead, we must confront them head-on, drawing upon our shared experiences, wisdom, and the strength of our collective resolve.

“Our decisions will send a strong message about our commitment to democracy, our intolerance for unconstitutional changes of government, and our dedication to regional stability. Let us also remember the people of Niger, who are the most affected by the current situation. Our actions should be guided by their interests and wellbeing. It is our responsibility to ensure that their voices are not silenced, their rights are not trampled upon, and their aspirations for a peaceful and democratic country are not dashed.

“It is my fervent hope that our discussions today will be marked by openness, frankness, and constructive dialogue. I encourage each one of us to contribute fully and freely, to listen attentively to each other, and to work collaboratively towards a solution that upholds our shared values and serves the best interests of the people of Niger.

“I am confident that, together, we can navigate these challenging times and emerge stronger as a regional community. The strength of ECOWAS lies in our unity, our shared values, and our unwavering commitment to the principles of democracy, peace, and prosperity. Let us, therefore, shoulder this responsibility with determination and resolve, and let our deliberations and decisions reflect the ideals that ECOWAS was founded upon.

“I am certain that our collective wisdom and commitment will guide us towards the right path. Our meeting today is not just about the restoration of democracy in one country, but about the preservation of the principles we all hold dear across the region. We are tasked today with a mission that requires us to rise above our individual interests and think as one community. We must remember, we are not just chiefs of defence staff, we are custodians of peace and stability in our region. As we deliberate, let us keep in mind that our decisions will echo beyond conference rooms, shaping the lives of millions of people and the future of our region.

“Our unity in diversity is our strength. We have a rich spectrum of cultures, languages, and histories. Yet, we share a common desire for peace, stability, and prosperity. This diversity is our asset, and we must use it to foster understanding and build consensus. As we deliberate on the way forward, let us be guided by the principles of justice, fairness, and respect for the rule of law. Our commitment to these principles should be unwavering. They are the bedrock on which our community is built, and they should be the guiding light in the difficult journey that lies ahead.

“I am confident that this meeting will mark a significant step towards restoring constitutional order in the Republic of Niger and affirming our collective commitment to democratic governance. I look forward to robust, fruitful discussions, and I am certain that our collective wisdom, experience, and commitment to our shared values will guide us to the best possible outcomes.”

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