“Lives are at stake”, Bishops in West Africa Oppose Military Intervention in Niger

Members of Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) present their final communiqué to journalists in Abuja on 7 May 2022. Credit: ACI Africa

West African countries have been ravished by terrorism and cannot handle another bloodbath, Catholic Bishops in West Africa have said, and opposed any form of intervention in the Nigerian Coup that could lead to more deaths in the region.

Defense officials at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have been mulling over a possible military intervention in Niger following the July 27 announcement of a coup in the West African country. Niger is bordered by Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Libya, Benin, Algeria, and Chad. Most of these countries are wreaked by terrorism and are on the list of places where Christians are persecuted the most.

In a statement they shared with ACI Africa on Wednesday, August 9, the Bishops belonging to  the Regional Episcopal Conference of West Africa (RECOWA) warned that lives in Niger and her neighbours are at stake should military bosses in the region proceed with the offensives that they could be planning.

“We affirm and insist to ECOWAS and the African Union that any military intervention in Niger at this time would complicate the situation of the people of Niger and the sub-region more than it would provide solutions,” the Bishops said.

They added, “Terrorism already has a macabre toll of widows, orphans, displaced persons, the hungry, the maimed and so on. People are not expecting the regional, African and other institutions to add to this toll.”


They said that they were “deeply concerned” by the sub-regional tension linked to the political situation in Niger, and added that their message was to urge everyone “to show restraint, discernment and responsibility.”

“The lives of the peoples of West Africa are at stake,” the RECOWA members comprising Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops in the West African region said.

They cautioned ECOWAS, the African Union, and other parties involved in the conflict in Niger against placing geopolitical and other interests ahead of the lives of the people in West Africa.

“We affirm that nothing can justify the creation or facilitation of an environment that is destructive to our people. No individual, national, regional, geopolitical or denominational interest or project should take precedence over the preservation of life, human dignity and the wellbeing of the future generations in West Africa and beyond,” they said.

“We, your pastors, are convinced, and the history of peoples teaches us, that violence does not solve any problem, not even the one that triggered it,” the RECOWA members said.

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They warned those considering military intervention in Niger to learn from Libya which they said “remains “a tragic example of the disastrous consequences for people's lives, dignity and future.”

“We cannot remain silent in the face of such situations and must learn lessons to ensure that such events do not happen again, particularly with Niger as a potential epicenter of a similar crisis,” they said.

The Bishops have called on parties involved in the conflict in Niger, as well as those seeking solutions for the country to play a positive role in easing tensions and promoting lasting peace in the region.

According to the Bishops, it is only dialogue and cooperation that can ease the tension in Niger.

“The peoples of the region love and accept each other and are constantly seeking to improve their coexistence. This is a natural gift that we must support and encourage,” they said, and added, “Every actor and institution should contribute positively to this process by promoting dialogue and cooperation.”


“We call on regional and sub-regional institutions such as ECOWAS and the African Union to show responsibility before history and to revisit their respective missions. At this critical and delicate time, it is essential that these organizations play an active role in the search for peaceful and lasting solutions, putting the interests of the people and respect for their dignity first,” they said. 

Colonel Amadou Abdramane among other nine officers announced the removal of President Mohammed Bazoum from power, citing the deteriorating security situation and bad governance as the reason behind the action.

The coup that led to the suspension of all political activities and the closure of borders attracted the attention of ECOWAS heads of state who convened a meeting in Abuja, Nigeria on July 30 issuing a seven-day ultimatum to the coup plotters to surrender power back to the President.

ECOWAS is reportedly preparing for a summit on Thursday to discuss the standoff with Niger’s coup generals, who defied an order to reinstate overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who heads ECOWAS, said diplomacy is the “best way forward” for resolving the crisis in Niger, but did not completely rule out the possibility of military interventions in the country.

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President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has cautioned Tinubu against launching any military expedition against Niger’s coup plotters, noting that such a move could lead into bloodshed.

“President Tinubu should please, not launch any military expedition in Niger. We are begging him to dissuade ECOWAS heads of state, to resist the temptation of going to war, against the coup plotters.”

The Nigerian Archbishop expressed solidarity with ECOWAS in condemning the Nigerien coup, and added, “But we also believe that shedding precious human blood is equally wrong. Two wrongs can never make a right.” 

Agnes Aineah is a Kenyan journalist with a background in digital and newspaper reporting. She holds a Master of Arts in Digital Journalism from the Aga Khan University, Graduate School of Media and Communications and a Bachelor's Degree in Linguistics, Media and Communications from Kenya's Moi University. Agnes currently serves as a journalist for ACI Africa.