West African bloc ECOWAS has approved military intervention in Niger “as soon as possible” to remove its military rulers following last month’s coup, Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara said Thursday.
“The Chiefs of Staff will have other conferences to finalize things but they have the agreement of the Conference of Heads of State for the operation to start as soon as possible,” said Ouattara as he returned from an emergency ECOWAS summit.
Earlier Thursday, the leaders of the bloc said they would deploy a “standby force” against the military leaders who seized control of Niger, deposing Mohamed Bazoum as president.
Ouattara said Ivory Coast would provide a battalion of 850 to 1,100 men alongside soldiers from Nigeria and Benin, and that other countries would join them.
“We are determined to restore president Bazoum to his functions,” he said.
Before leaving the summit in Abuja, Nigeria, Ouattara had told journalists that ECOWAS “has intervened in the past, in Liberia, in Sierra Leone, in Gambia and Guinea-Bissau” when constitutional order in the countries was threatened.
“Today we have a similar situation in Niger, and I like to say that ECOWAS cannot accept this.”