AFRICA/NIGER - Diplomatic stalemate continues as African bishops reiterate their 'no' to military intervention

Tuesday, 22 August 2023 bishops   peace   military   coup  

Niamey (Agenzia Fides) - The Economic Community of West African States (CEDEAO/ECOWAS), has rejected the proposal of the Niger military junta to hold elections within three years. Thus, the tug of war continues between the Nigerien coup leaders who seized power on July 26 and some of the ECOWAS member states that might decide on a military intervention to return President Mohamed Bazoum to power. Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea, Member States of the Community suspended for being governed by coup juntas, have declared their solidarity with the Nigerien coup leaders, while within the same countries that have threatened military intervention, the voices of those who ask for a resolution of the crisis through dialogue and not by force. In Nigeria, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan, at the end of their Assembly, addressed an appeal to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu (one of the main supporters of the military operation) recalling that "the public reaction to Nigeria’s involvement in restoring democracy in Niger is anything to go by, one can say that military intervention in Niger being proposed by the leaders of the Economic Community of West Africa ECOWAS is very unpopular". "Nigerians favour negotiation and other non-military means, and President Bola Tinubu, who is president first and foremost of Nigeria, needs to listen to Nigerians before anyone else", the Bishops say. "Therefore, we call on the President and the National Assembly therefore to avoid involving Nigeria in armed conflict in Niger as we have more than enough challenges domestically". In Benin, the local Episcopal Conference called for the lifting of the economic sanctions decreed against Niger after the ECOWAS/ECOWAS coup, defined as "unprecedented" and which affect "a population that already suffers seriously from the drama of poverty and misery". The Bishops of Benin call for the lifting of sanctions or at least their review "in the name of ethics, African solidarity and our common humanity", and hope to resolve the crisis through diplomatic channels. To this end, on August 15, on the occasion of the celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, the bishops urged the priests to celebrate the Mass for peace in Niger and also those of all parishes in the subregion. In addition, on August 18, 2023, all the Catholic faithful and people of good will were called to observe a day of fasting and prayer with the same intention. Also in Togo, the Episcopal Conference has declared itself in favor of lifting the sanctions against Niger and continuing the dialogue. Previously, the Episcopal Conferences of Nigeria and Niger and Burkina Faso (see Fides, 7/8/2023) and the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA/CERAO, see Fides, 10/8/2023) had expressed themselves in similar terms. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 22/8/2023)