Guinea-Bissau President Umaro Sissoco Embalo said on Wednesday that the existence of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was at stake in the Niger crisis, on the eve of a new summit of the organization on the military coup in Niamey.
Mr. Embalo told reporters that President Mohamed Bazoum, deposed by the Nigerien military, was the only legitimate one when he flew to Abuja, where ECOWAS is holding a summit on Thursday.
"The only president we recognize is Bazoum. He is the one the people have chosen," he said. "If you don't want a government or a president, sanction it through the ballot box (...) Coups must be banned", he added.
Mr. Embalo estimated that ECOWAS, of which his country and Niger are part, has been gambling its existence after the putsch in three other member states ( Mali, Guinea, Burkina Faso ) since 2020.
“The situation that ECOWAS is going through is really worrying. This organization so far is the safest, the strongest on the whole continent. Today, we run the risk of making it disappear,” he said. "I don't think we're going to come to that," he qualified, however.
ECOWAS threatened at a previous summit on July 30 to use force if the military did not restore Mr. Bazoum to his post within a week. The ultimatum expired without the coup perpetrators complying.
Mr. Embalo assured that the Bissau-Guinean Parliament would not have to decide on the sending of troops if ECOWAS decided on a military intervention in Niger and that he could decree it after a meeting of the National Council of the defense, a body that advises it on security issues.
Guinea -Bissau, itself plagued by chronic instability, has seen a string of coups or coup attempts since its independence from Portugal in 1974, the latest in February 2022.