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Niger border remain closed despite sanctions being lifted

Niger has not reopened its border with Benin two days after a West African bloc lifted coup-linked sanctions on the landlocked nation, including border closures,…

Niger has not reopened its border with Benin two days after a West African bloc lifted coup-linked sanctions on the landlocked nation, including border closures, local officials said Monday.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Saturday said it was lifting sanctions imposed after last year’s military coup, including a no-fly zone, border closures and asset freezes.

“There has still been no change on the Niger side: so far the border hasn’t been opened, so we’re still waiting,” local journalist Fhadel Alou told AFP, speaking in the Niger border town of Gaya.

“The border has reopened on the Benin side,” he added.

Two Nigerien officials confirmed the border with Benin “remained closed”.

Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum was ousted in a military coup last July, prompting ECOWAS to suspend trade and impose tough sanctions.

But the bloc’s warning of military intervention has fizzled out with little sign that Bazoum – still held in the presidential palace – is close to being restored.

The Nigerien military is still blocking a bridge on the frontier, residents on the Benin side of the border said.

Before the border closure, the Niger-Benin corridor handled 80 percent of Niger’s freight via the Beninese port of Cotonou, some 1,000 kilometres (620 miles) from the Niger capital Niamey.

After the sanctions led to a decline in the port’s revenues, Benin announced it was lifting the suspension of Nigerien imports transiting through Cotonou.

ECOWAS announced Sunday it was also easing sanctions against Guinea and Mali, which too have witnessed coups, after an emergency summit.

The ECOWAS move signals a desire to renew dialogue with military regimes among its members after Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso announced their intention to leave the bloc.

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