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Nigerian bishops discourage military intervention in Niger after coup

August 8, 2023 Catholic News Agency 1
Niger’s National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane (center), General Mohamed Toumba (center-left), and Colonel Ousmane Abarchi (right) are greeted upon their arrival at the Stade General Seyni Kountche in Niamey, Niger, on Aug. 6, 2023. / Credit: AFP via Getty Images

Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Aug 8, 2023 / 07:25 am (CNA).

Nigerian Catholic bishops are discouraging the leaders of Western African nations from using military intervention in the neighboring country of Niger after the government’s military ousted its president and installed a general as the new head of state. 

Less than two weeks ago, senior military officials deposed Niger President Mohamed Bazoum and presidential guard commander Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani announced himself as leader.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military intervention if Niger’s military refused to restore democracy within one week. The deadline passed on Sunday, but the coup leaders remain in power.

In response to the threat, some Nigerian groups are discouraging Western African countries from using military intervention and are encouraging diplomacy instead. Nigeria is positioned just north of Niger and shares a nearly 1,000-mile border with the country.

The president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Lucius Iwejuru Ugorji, is urging Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to dissuade Western African countries from using military intervention despite the deadline passing. 

“At the end of their meeting, [ECOWAS] gave the coup plotters one week to restore democratic leadership in Niger or risk military intervention,” Ugorji said during a pastoral visit to Mary Mother of God Catholic Parish, according to the Nigerian newspaper Vanguard

“This marching order [expired Sunday],” Ugorji added. “They reasoned that it is wrong to change government by force. They are correct, but we also believe that shedding precious human blood is equally wrong. Two wrongs can never make a right.”

“We are begging President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to dissuade ECOWAS heads of states to resist the temptation of going to war against the coup plotters,” Ugorji said. “We beg them to stop the imminent bloodshed that will trail the military intervention. We have wasted a lot of human blood in Africa. We have also wasted precious human lives in Nigeria and we cannot continue in this ugly fashion, for whatever reason,” the archbishop said.

Ugorji noted that some countries are supporting the coup and suggested ECOWAS “think of what should be the fate of the organization” if Western African countries intervene.

“The media is awash with the news of some countries that have already declared their full support for the country and their military strongmen,” the archbishop continued. “Russia may also be there, without our knowing. While we say no to coup d’etat, we also say no to war, for whatever reason. We say no manipulation of election results because it is also another shade of coup d’etat.”

The United States government, which had strong relations with the country’s ousted president, condemned the coup and paused some foreign assistance programs in Niger.