The Defiant Ones

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Nigerien coup leaders formed a 21-member cabinet Thursday to serve as the country’s government, a decision that came as West African leaders met in neighboring Nigeria to decide on military action following last month’s coup, Al Jazeera reported.

Mahamane Roufai Laouali – cited as the “secretary-general of the government” – provided the names of those to serve in the new cabinet, including three generals who participated in the July 26 ousting of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

The three individuals are set to become the ministers of defense, interior and sports.

Meanwhile, members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held a summit in Nigeria on Thursday to agree on a plan of action for Niger. Following the meeting, West African leaders agreed to assemble a “standby” military force, but added its use would be a “last resort,” the BBC noted.

ECOWAS leaders strongly condemned the coup and called for Bazoum’s reinstatement. The regional bloc has so far imposed a series of sanctions on Niger and threatened to intervene militarily if the democratically elected government is not restored.

But coup leaders have ignored the diplomatic overtures as well as an Aug. 6 deadline by ECOWAS to restore civilian rule.

Analysts explained that the situation is a “decisive moment” for ECOWAS, raising questions about whether the regional members will agree unanimously to launch a military intervention in Niger.

Last month’s coup was the latest in West Africa, a region sometimes called the “coup belt” with its history of military takeovers in recent years, including Mali and Burkina Faso.

The military juntas ruling Mali and Burkina Faso have warned that any intervention in Niger will be a declaration of war on them also.

Observers cautioned that any escalation could exacerbate instability in West Africa’s Sahel region, one of the globe’s most impoverished areas. Ongoing violence from armed groups has displaced millions and stoked a hunger crisis.

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