Residents of Niger's capital, Niamey, are calling for the mass recruitment of volunteers to assist the army in the face of a growing threat by the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, which says it will use military force if the junta doesn’t reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.
ECOWAS has activated a “standby force” to restore order in Niger after the junta ignored a deadline to release and reinstate Bazoum.
"We do not give a damn about ECOWAS. ECOWAS has been tailor-made for the presidents in power. And we do not need it" says Omar Amadou, a Niamey resident. "Whether ECOWAS intervenes or not, Niger is ready for all options. We are ready. Whatever ECOWAS decides, we are ready" Amadou stressed.
Niger is now preparing for a possible invasion by countries in the region, three weeks after mutinous soldiers ousted the nation’s democratically elected president.
The initiative, spearheaded by a group of locals in Niamey, aims to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers from across the country to register for the Volunteers for the Defense of Niger.
The group would fight, assist with medical care, and provide technical and engineering logistics among other functions, in case the junta needs help according to Amsarou Bako, one of the founders, who spoke with The Associated Press Tuesday.
"It's an eventuality. We need to be ready whenever it happens," he said. The recruitment drive will launch Saturday in Niamey as well as in cities where invasion forces might enter, such as near the borders with Nigeria and Benin, two countries, which have said they would participate in an intervention. "Anyone over 18 can register and the list will be given to the junta to call upon people if needed", said Bako. The junta is not involved, but is aware of the initiative, he said.
Amadou Hawa, an elderly Niamey resident offered prayers to such a group and urged for support. "My children and I love these soldiers, and I invite young people to join the army and develop our country, our villages," said Hawa.
Regional tensions are deepening as the standoff between Niger and ECOWAS shows no signs of defusing, despite signals from both sides that they are open to resolving the crisis peacefully.