Pro-junta protesters in Niger rally against ECOWAS sanctions Pro-junta protesters in Niger rally against ECOWAS sanctions  (ANSA)

West Africa’s Church leaders voice opposition to military intervention in Niger

The heads of Catholic religious orders and the Bishops of Togo express their opposition to a proposed military intervention in Niger, saying armed attempts to depose the leaders of a coup will only further destabilize the entire region.

By Vatican News staff reporter

Leaders of religious orders working in West Africa have backed the region's Catholic Bishops in opposing any military intervention in coup-hit Niger, saying it would only worsen the situation.

Need for negotiations

In a statement shared this week with Aci Africa news agency, members of the Regional Conference of Major Superiors of West Africa (RECOMSWA) reiterated the appeal by the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA-CERAO) to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to explore other forms of intervention in addressing the crisis, starting from seeking negotiations.

“We join calls for restraint, discernment, and responsibility on the part of ECOWAS and other regional and international bodies in this delicate matter,” said the statement.

During a second emergency summit last week, after the military coup led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani on 27 July, ECOWAS resolved to order the “immediate activation” and the deployment of a regional standby force “to restore constitutional order”.

The West African leaders also emphasized their “determination to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis”, while upholding all measures agreed so far, including heavy economic sanctions against Niger.

Risk of further destabilization in West Africa

Echoing RECOWA-CERAO’s concerns, West Africa’s religious superiors reaffirmed that a military intervention would only further destabilize the entire region, which has been experiencing ever-growing insecurity since the NATO-backed collapse of Muammar Qaddafi’s regime in Libya in 2011.

“While we condemn the coup d’état in Niger and the use of force to seize power, we are equally against the use of military force to restore constitutional rule,” RECOMSWA members said.

They therefore urged ECOWAS and the African Union (AU) to focus on the governance issues highlighted in their member States with the same firmness with which they are approaching the Nigerien situation so as to prevent any future coups.

They further called upon all foreign powers to refrain from any attempt to intervene in the Nigerien coup with the view of controlling the country’s resources.

Solidarity with Nigerien people

“The people of Niger and of the sub-region need peace! Sovereignty lies in the hands of the people and they must be the ultimate beneficiary of their God-given resources. Let us not add to the plight of the Nigerien people,” they said.

The religious Major Superiors concluded by expressing their solidarity with the Nigerien people at these difficult time and by calling on  persons of goodwill “to pray for peace in Niger and in the Sub-region.”

Togolese Bishops join in expressing solidarity to to the people of Niger

The Bishops of Togo have also joined in expressing solidarity with the people of Niger. After organizing a “triduum prayer” for peace in the West African nation, the Episcopal Conference of Togo (CET) issued a statement on Monday, 14 August, appealing to the “conscience and sense of responsibility of political decision-makers”.

In the statement, Togo's Bishops urged political leaders to “favour, at all costs, the diplomatic path of negotiation, dialogue and mediation” in the search for a solution to the crisis “by listening to the cries of distress of the people of Niger”.

In order to foster negotiations, the Bishops called on ECOWAS to lift its sanctions against Niger, whose primary victims, they said, “are the civilian population, especially women and children.”

The CET statement saluted leaders who have taken what it describes as a “courageous, wise and prudent stance” against a possible military intervention in Niger, and are instead proposing “dialogue with discernment” for the parties involved.

The Bishops further express gratitude to the Togolese who participated in prayers for the country’s neighbour, as well as those “who continue to carry the situation in Niger in their daily prayers.”

Reiterating their closeness to the Bishops and their brothers and sisters of Niger, Togo's Bishops concluded the statement by imploring the Lord for “the grace of a rapid return to calm and mutual understanding, for the good of all.”

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17 August 2023, 14:25