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Niger: Coupists seek Russia’s help as ECOWAS mulls military action

A clash is imminent as the coupists in the Republic of Niger have sought Russia’s help in the face of military threats by the Economic…

A clash is imminent as the coupists in the Republic of Niger have sought Russia’s help in the face of military threats by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The regional body, which has the backing of the Western countries and the United Nations, has issued a seven-day ultimatum to the military junta to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum as democratically elected president or face a range of stiff sanctions.

It has also tasked all Chiefs of Defence Staff of the member-states to proceed for an emergency meeting to strategize on effective ways to implement a possible military operation to restore constitutional order to office.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani, also known as Omar Tchiani, and the chief of Niger’s presidential guard, has declared himself leader while the country’s elected president has been held by the military since the coup took place last week.

Even on Saturday, the African Union (AU) gave the soldiers 15 days to return to their barracks and restore civil rule in the country.

But the country’s military leaders in a statement read on Niger national television yesterday warned ECOWAS not to send troops to their country.

The military coup in Niger, which began unfolding on Wednesday, has been widely condemned by neighbours and international partners including the United States, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and the republic’s former colonial power. France.

ECOWAS, which recognised Bazoum as the legitimate president, yesterday also announced immediate sanctions on Niger, including the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger.

It also established a no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger, and suspended all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Niger.

The regional body announced the sanctions in a communique yesterday at the end of the Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS on Socio-Political Situation in the Republic of Niger.

The summit was hosted by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in his capacity as the Chairperson of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja.

In the communique read by the President, ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, the leaders rejected any form of purported resignation by President Bazoum and declared him as the only recognised and elected President by ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community.

“In this regard, only official acts of President Bazoum or his duly-mandated officials will be recognized by ECOWAS,” the commission said.

The leaders condemned what they called the illegal detention of President Bazoum and members of his family and government.

They demanded the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger and considered the illegal detention of President Bazoum as a hostage situation, holding the authors of the attempted coup d’état solely and fully responsible for his safety and security and that of his family and government.

In the event ECOWAS’ demands are not met within one week, the leaders said they would take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger.

“Such measures may include the use of force. For this effect, the Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately,” the leaders said.

ECOWAS leaders also condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors, while expressing appreciation to various governments and partners for their stance and solidarity.

The summit also agreed to appoint and dispatch a special representative to deliver the demands of the authority.

Furthermore, assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Bank, Niger state enterprises, and parastatals in commercial banks will be frozen.

Niger will also be suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within ECOWAS.

Additionally, travel bans and asset freezes were imposed on the military officials involved in the coup attempt, as well as their family members and civilians who agreed to participate in any institution or government established by the military officials.

In his closing remarks to the summit, President Tinubu thanked fellow leaders, Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission (AUC) Chairperson; the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Office in West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simaõ, for their active engagement and invaluable contributions to the discussions.

“Your invaluable contributions to our discussions have got us this far and hopefully, we will achieve our objective.

“The essence of African unity and solidarity is hereby reaffirmed. Our unwavering commitment to democracy, peace and prosperity is hereby resolved.

“Throughout our deliberations, we have recognized that the challenges faced by Niger are interconnected with broader issues affecting our region.

“As African leaders, it is our shared responsibility to foster stability and progress, placing the wellbeing of our people at the forefront of our endeavours, and working together towards their prosperity and happiness must always consistently be our goals.

“We will stand with our people in freedom and our commitment to the rule of law and not the barrel of gun. Africa has come of age.

“We reject coup and interruption to constitutional order. Thank you for coming,” he said.

Before the summit, the president also held bilateral meetings with President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau, President Mahmat Iddris Deby Itno of Chad, and Michael Health, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of African Affairs.

Presidents Patrice Talon of Benin Republic, Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, Adama Barrow of The Gambia, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Embalo of Guinea Bissau, Macky Sall of Senegal, Faure Gnassingbé of Togo attended the summit while the presidents of Cape Verde, Liberia, Niger and Sierra Leone were represented.


Niger coup leaders warn ECOWAS, seek Russia’s help

But the Niger Republic’s military leaders in a statement read on Niger national television warned ECOWAS not to send troops to their country, saying it is an attempt to start a war against Niger.

“The objective of the ECOWAS meeting is to approve a plan of aggression against Niger through an imminent military intervention in Niamey in collaboration with other African countries that are non-members of ECOWAS, and certain Western countries,” Aljazeera quoted the military spokesman, Colonel Amadou Abduramane, to have said.

Abduramane called on Russia to help Niger with soldiers and equipment.

He said they were ready to defend their country from the attacks that he suspected ECOWAS would launch on the country.

He also called on the citizens to come out and hold a demonstration to support them.

Russia has troops in Mali, a neighbour of Niger, which has caused France and the United Nations to withdraw their peacekeeping troops from the country.

Russia’s Wagner mercenary boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month, has hailed the coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

Niger has been a security partner of France, and the United States, which have used it as a base to fight an Islamist insurgency in West and Central Africa’s wider Sahel region.

Crowd burns French embassy

A crowd gathered yesterday outside the French Embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, burned French flags and stoned the former colonial power’s mission, drawing tear gas from police.

In a swift reaction, France condemned the violence against its diplomatic mission and pledged to react strongly to any attack on its nationals or interests.

“The president will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement, specifying that it would respond to attacks against French diplomats, armed forces or businesses.

In a separate statement, the Foreign Affairs ministry condemned all violence against diplomatic missions and called on Nigerien authorities to protect the French mission as required under international law.

Macron has spoken with ousted President Bazoum and a former president of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou in the last few hours, the statement from the president’s office said, adding that both of them condemned the coup and called for calm.


Military intervention will be catastrophic – PeacePro

A peacebuilding think tank, Foundation for Peace Professionals also known as PeacePro, has called on the leadership of the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS not to contemplate military intervention in Niger Republic.

PeacePro also noted that no foreign nation or organization has authority to intervene militarily in any sovereign nation over internal issues.

The Executive Director of the group, Abdulrazaq Hamzat, in a statement said it supported the strong position of African Union and ECOWAS on the restoration of democratic order in Niger Republic and all other proposed measures, except military intervention.

He warned that military intervention would turn West Africa into a battle zone between foreign powers and armed dealers.

He stated that no matter the good intentions behind it, the outcome will be catastrophic for the continent.

Hamzat also explained that, no international law permits military intervention in any country, except for peacekeeping operations and should AU and ECOWAS contemplate such intervention, foreign powers may also justify their numerous illegal operations and other future interventions through the same process.

“Military intervention in Niger Republic amounts to digging Africa’s grave and nobody digs his or her own grave,” Hamzat added.


By Kamarudeen Ogundele, Muideen Olaniyi (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)

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