(This is a transcription of Ghana’s Defence Minister, Dominic Nitiwul’s address at the opening of the Extraordinary Meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff on the Niger situation.)
On behalf of the President of the Republic and Commander in Chief of the Ghana Armed Forces, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, Government and People of Ghana, let me say that I’m extremely glad to be invited here at the Extraordinary Meeting of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff to speak to you on a very important matter such as this.
My Dear Generals, Officers, Our Nation, Our various Nations, that is our sub region, ECOWAS, again is facing crisis, crisis that we taught over the last 15 years had disappeared when all 15 members of the ECOWAS countries have chosen the path of democracy and had civilian governments.
ECOWAS became the toast of the international community and the investor world. Remember, that in Africa, our region in the past had been bedevilled by coups detats, military takeovers, whilst other regions did not have same. Southern and Eastern countries have relatively been very peaceful. Whilst we were creating issues for ourselves, they were busily, Ladies and Gentleman attracting investments. The result is that our people were therefore the worse. But today, our nations within West Africa are sliding again into the era that we thought will never come. That is why it is clear to all of us that the security of the sub region is going through one of the most difficult moments after the challenges of the 60s, the 70s and particularly the 90s, when rebel incursions destabilise parts of the West Africa sub region, and in recent times, the scourge of terrorist armed groups and violent extremist groups have rocked the Sahel region of West Africa.
As stated already, the populations of these countries have been affected by these activities and the people are paying heavy price – loss of human lives, deterioration of physical infrastructure, school dropouts are abandoned, increased humanitarian crisis, and states are gradually losing large tracts of territory to these unfortunate incidents, who now control and carry out various criminal activities and continue to conduct illicit cross-border trafficking. ECOWAS can only be weaker by these acts.
Unfortunately, Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are all aware, four of our member states are now facing sanctions for resorting to unconstitutional change of government which contradicts the ECOWAS protocol on good governance and democracy.
It will be recalled that following the extraordinary summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Governments of the ECOWAS in Abuja, Nigeria, on the 10th of August, 2023, convened subsequent to the recent illegal detention of President Mohamed Bazoum by members of the Presidential Guard in the Republic of Niger, on July 26, 2023, ECOWAS deployed all diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis but as already stated, head of the military junta in Niger remained defiant after the expiration of the one week ultimatum given for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger.
Ladies and Gentlemen, during the last extraordinary meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments on the political situation in Niger, which was held on the 10th of August in Abuja, our Heads of State and Governments directed the Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff to immediately activate the ECOWAS stand-by force with all its elements for the deployment to restore constitutional order in the republic of Niger
The Heads of State and Government issued a communique which was signed by His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu of Nigeria, who is their Chairman and they reaffirmed that President Mohammed Bazoum remains the legitimate elected president and Head of State of the Republic of Niger and he is duly recognised by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.
My Dear Generals, permit me to make a quote from the communique for the sake of our meeting, and for the very reason why you are here. Article 3 of the communique says that the Authority of the Heads of State and Government hereby directs the committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff to activate the ECOWAS standby force with all its elements. The Authority of Heads of State and Government hereby order the deployment of ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.
Diplomatic and other channels shall remain open for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.
All Member States, and let me repeat, all Member States, the President of the ECOWAS Commission, and the heads of all institutions of the community shall take the necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of this decision. All member states shall take the necessary measures to ensure the full implementation of this decision (sic).
ECOWAS calls on UEMOA (the West African Monetary and Economic Union (called by its French acronym) and all other regional bodies to implement the decision. ECOWAS calls on the African Union to endorse all decisions taken by ECOWAS on the situation in Niger. We further call on all partner countries and institutions including the United Nations to support ECOWAS in its efforts to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order in conformity with nortmative instruments.
Ladies and Gentlemen, My Dear Generals, you and your dedicated and loyal troops today stand on the threshold of history as professionals who are being tasked to help the people of West Africa to help them to elect their leaders through free, fair and transparent general elections.
I am of the firm belief that you, who form part of the most experienced soldiers in our sub region, will put in place a strategic plan that will boost the confidence of our people and restore hope within our various countries. The spirit of our people in West Africa is with you as you meet here to put the plan in place, which will meet the ECOWAS directives.
Without trying to make a roll call, I am glad that the Chief of Defence Staff of Nigeria himself, the Chairman is here; the Chief of Defence Staff of Ghana, the host, is here; the Chief of Defence Staff of Ivory Coast, is present in this meeting; the Chief of Defence Staff of Senegal, is present in this meeting; the Chief of Defence Staff of Togo, is present in this meeting; the Chief of Defence Staff of Benin, is present in this meeting; the Chief of Defence Staff of Liberia, is present in this meeting; the Chief of Defence Staff of Sierra Leone, is present in this meeting; and the Chief of Defence Staff of Gambia, is present in this meeting.
Of course, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Media, it’s clear that Mali, who has a flag there, is not present. Guinea is not present, Niger is not present and Burkina Faso is not present. These are the countries I mentioned were under sanctions and have been suspended. That is the reason they are not present.
Of course our brothers from Guinea Bissau and Cape Verde have genuine excuses why they are not here.
Your presence alone sounds and gives me a powerful message to the world – you are united in carrying out directives of the Heads of States and Governments of ECOWAS, and that after today and tomorrow’s meeting, you will put in place a plan to ensure that the standby force is activated and that democracy will be restored in Niger. If presidential guards in Guinea and Niger take hostage their president, nobody, and let me repeat, nobody in West Africa is safe.
That is why I urge you to continue to be loyal to your Heads of States. I urge you to continue to be loyal to ECOWAS directives and to give effect that the days that coup detats enjoyed the support of our people are over. Yes, in democracy, people will agree to disagree. But the vast majority of our people look up to you, the vast majority of our people in West Africa do not want to be under the difficulties that we are facing today. You have the rights as men in uniform to ask your governments for what you will need to be able to defend your nations. You have the right to ask your governments to give you the tools to defend the territorial integrities of your nations to ensure that your nations remain peaceful. You’ll have the right to ensure that your people choose your leaders in a free and fair manner.
But the world will disagree, ECOWAS will disagree, the people of ECOWAS will disagree, when you choose, or people under you choose to take hostage the people that your constitution give power to, otherwise all of us, including you, will not be safe.
Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen, I am very optimistic that between today and tomorrow, all of you will put your rich experiences together to be able to activate the ECOWAS standby force, to enable you respond adequately and swiftly to the demands placed on you by our Heads of State.
You did it in Liberia. You did it in Sierra Leone. You did it in The Gambia. You did it in The Guinea Bissau. Of course, to some extent the world did it in Cote d’Ivoire. And I believe that after Niger and the world will see the West Africa is back to normal and our people will begin to enjoy the life that they deserve.
I wish you the best of luck in your two-day deliberation, it will not be easy. Nobody wants to go for a conflict. In fact, nobody wants, no soldier, no CDS, no president will want to see a soldier die under him. But when soldiers swear to defend their countries with their lives, they take that oath seriously. And when the authorities bestowed on you by the Constitution calls on you to exercise that mandate, so shall it be.
Enjoy your short stay in Ghana, as you will be needed back in your countries. And I say akwaaba, ayekoo! And may God be our guide. Thank you very much.
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