GHANA: Bishops Rally for Diplomatic Solution to Niger Crisis, Caution Regional Leaders

By Arnold Neliba

ACCRA, AUGUST 25, 2023 (CISA)-The Ghana Catholic Bishops’ Conference has urged ECOWAS, the regional bloc in West Africa to explore and exhaust all diplomatic avenues to avoid bloodshed and chaos, denouncing its intention to deploy military forces to Niger to restore constitutional democracy.

In statement signed by the President of the Conference, Most Rev Matthew Kwasi Gyamfi, the bishops cautioned that military interventions risks worsening the already tense situation in Niger and will expose women, children, aged, weak and vulnerable to suffering.

“It is the position of the Conference that the idea of an ECOWAS military intervention for the restoration of constitutional regime in Niger should not even be contemplated. We should note that already Mali and Burkina Faso have dispatched warplanes to Niger in response to a potential military intervention by ECOWAS. Moreover, Burkina Faso has threatened to withdraw from ECOWAS if the bloc intervenes militarily in Niger,” reads the August 24 statement.

Concerned about the situation in West-Africa plagued with a series of coup d’états; Mali in 2020, Guineas in 2021 Burkina Faso in 2022 and now  in Niger, the bishops have warned that the occurrences have the potential to fuel even further anarchy and insecurity in the region.

“It is in the position of the conference that ECOWAS and it’s leaders should explore diplomacy in handling the situation. This will require further engagements with the coup leaders to discuss a concrete roadmap for the situation,” the bishops said expressing confidence that the approach will help design lasting solutions to the situation in Niger.

To the President of Ghana and across the region, the bishops have called for restraint I the use of force while suggesting a review of system of governance in Africa “to be inclusive, human-centred and one which creates opportunities for all to promote the national and continental development agenda”

“The Conference, as a member of the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA), made up of the Catholic Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops in West Africa, reiterates the position of RECOWA, which calls for restraint on the part of the ECOWAS leaders for the use of force to restore constitutional regime in Niger,” they held.

In Nigeria, the Bishops of the Ecclesiastical Province of Ibadan have appealed to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the chairperson of ECOWAS and one of the proponents the proposed military operation to avoid involving Nigeria in armed conflict in Niger.

“…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,” the bishops said further calling 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 bishops have called for the lifting of the economic sanctions declared against Niger after the coup, defining them as “unprecedented” and which affect “a population that already suffers seriously from the drama of poverty and misery”, pronouncements which have been echoed by their counterparts in Togo.

Algeria which has come out against West African bloc ECOWAS’s threat to send a military force to intervene if the new military regime there fails to restore democracy said it had sent a senior official to neighbouring Niger on Thursday to pursue a diplomatic initiative.