Niger’s new military leader said the junta won’t bow to international pressure to relinquish power, escalating a standoff with a regional bloc that has threatened to use force if the nation’s democratically elected president isn’t reinstated.
(Bloomberg) — Niger’s new military leader said the junta won’t bow to international pressure to relinquish power, escalating a standoff with a regional bloc that has threatened to use force if the nation’s democratically elected president isn’t reinstated.
The military “refuses to give in to any threat, wherever it comes from,” General Abdourahmane Tiani said in a televised address late Wednesday. He rejected harsh sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States and warned against any intervention as the region’s military chiefs held an emergency summit in neighboring Nigeria to discuss a response to the July 26 coup.
US President Joe Biden on Thursday became the latest world leader to call for President Mohamed Bazoum’s immediate release and “the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy,” hours after the US ordered non-emergency government employees and family to leave Niger. Moody’s Investors Service on Wednesday downgraded Niger’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer ratings by two notches to Caa2, saying the sanctions made a default more likely.
Ecowas, as the regional bloc is known, last week closed borders with Niger, froze the nation’s assets at the regional central bank and banned commercial flights, among other steps aimed at compelling the junta to relinquish power. Nigeria ratcheted up the pressure by cutting its electricity supply to Niger, causing rolling blackouts in major cities.
Those “sanctions have started having an effect in Niamey as we speak,” Kiari Liman Tinguiri, Niger’s ambassador to the US, said in an interview Wednesday with Bloomberg TV. “The military junta, who has launched this attempt of a coup, will come to reason and give back power to save the unnecessary suffering for our people.”
Bazoum, who hasn’t been seen in public since he was detained by the presidential guard on July 26, has spoken to foreign leaders including Biden and French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation in the country, Tinguiri said.
“Physically, the president is doing well, and he’s mentally very strong,” he said.
The coup risks further destabilizing West Africa’s Sahel region, the ambassador said. It also poses a threat to coastal countries including Ivory Coast and Togo, where there has been an increase in jihadist activity, he added.
Threat of Force
The coup set off a series of meetings in the regions as all sides tried to shore up support.
Ecowas defense chiefs were on Thursday wrapping up a two-day meeting in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, to discuss a response. The regional bloc has said it may use force if the junta doesn’t reinstate Bazoum by Aug. 6.
Meanwhile, another Ecowas delegation travelled on Wednesday to Niger’s capital, Niamey, for negotiations with the coup leaders, and Niger’s army chief of staff went to Mali and Burkina Faso — two neighboring states whose military leadership has pledged their support for the junta.
Tiani, 59, declared himself Niger’s new leader on July 28, two days after the presidential guard he leads detained Bazoum. The coup creates a strip of military-run countries stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea — most of which are more closely aligned to Russia than to the West.
Read more: What’s Driving Coups in Niger and Across West Africa?: QuickTake
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