Bola Tinubu, the President of Nigeria and the incumbent President of ECOWAS, gave an ultimatum to the putschist regime in Niger which ousted President Bazoum. President Tinubu had given a one-week ultimatum for the putschist regime to restore President Bazoum to his post or ECOWAS would use military force to restore constitutional order in Niger.
This ultimatum had expired on Sunday, August 6, 2023, at midnight, and nothing had happened. The streets of Niamey were rather calm, and the leaders of the putschist regime are still holding on to power. This makes us ponder whether ECOWAS has not lost its credibility again.
After ECOWAS’ threat to use military force was given, the putschist countries of Guinea, Mali, and Burkina Faso also gave their support to the putschist regime in Niger, and declared that an attack on Niger would be considered an attack on them, and therefore, a declaration of war.
President Tinubu issued these threats without really assessing the situation in depth and without thoroughly assessing the texts of the ECOWAS charter. Indeed, the Nigerian President proposed to use the Nigerian military as the forefront army to lead the military intervention but the Nigerian legislative branch categorically refused. Indeed, like in the United States, the President of Nigeria must obtain the consent of the legislative branch in order to declare war on another country.
Before issuing these threats, President Tinubu did not evaluate all the possible options. He did not consult with the Nigerian Senate first. Now he is in a dilemma. He cannot bypass the Nigerian legislative and take the Nigerian military to invade Niger because there will be dire consequences for that. At the same time, he cannot also retract his threats anymore other he will appear weak and totally discredited. So what to do? It is clear that he bit more than he could chew.
The Nigerien coup regime closed the airspace until further notice after the ultimatum expired. More importantly, it seems that the majority of the Nigerien people have shown their support for the putschist regime. Indeed, the putschist regime presents itself as the voice of resentment of French politics in its former colonies. The regime of General Tchiani marks the break between France and Niger. Supporters of Tchiani’s regime have even declared that the ECOWAS army will have to run over them in order to overthrow the putschist regime.
So what is left of ECOWAS’ credibility? It is certain that ECOWAS’s reputation is seriously damaged now, especially if Tchiani’s regime ends up staying in power. The failure of a military intervention in Niger is a major setback to the credibility of ECOWAS. And the worst is that this is not the first time that ECOWAS has done this. ECOWAS always issued threats of using military force but never carries its threats to term. And this is another proof that ECOWAS is also talks and no substance.
The authority, legitimacy, and credibility of ECOWAS are seriously jeopardized, and this may even raise the question of whether it should simply be abolished.