By Ebi Kesiena
Civilians in Niger are preparing for war against regional countries threatening to invade, three weeks after mutinous soldiers ousted the nation’s democratically-elected president.
According to local media, residents in the 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 the deposed President Mohamed Bazoum.
ECOWAS has activated a “standby force” to restore order in Niger after the junta ignored a deadline to reinstate and release Bazoum.
Amsarou Bako, one of the founders of the initiative, spearheaded by a group of locals in Niamey, stated that it aims to recruit tens of thousands of volunteers from across the country to register for the Volunteers for the Defence of Niger,
Bako told Associated Press news agency that the volunteers will fight, assist with medical care, and provide technical and engineering logistics among other functions, in case the junta needs help.
“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.
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.