Niger’s self-declared military leadership vowed to prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, even as it said it’s prepared to reopen talks with a West African regional economic bloc that has demanded the junta cede power.
(Bloomberg) — Niger’s self-declared military leadership vowed to prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, even as it said it’s prepared to reopen talks with a West African regional economic bloc that has demanded the junta cede power.
The coup leaders plan to charge Bazoum with “high treason and undermining the internal and external security of Niger,” Agence France-Presse reported, citing a statement read out by Colonel-Major Amadou Abdramane on national TV. The soldiers’ treatment of Bazoum, including withholding food and water, has become a sticking point in relations with Niger’s neighbors and the international community that have grown increasingly tense since a July 26 coup.
The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States last week activated its standby force as it considers military intervention to force the junta to relinquish power. It’s also imposed sanctions including freezing the nation’s assets at the regional central bank and baning commercial flights — measures Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine described as “inhumane, exceptional and unacceptable.”
“We’re open to a dialog that can lead to the lifting of sanctions,” Zeine told state TV Tele Sahel after a visit by a mediation mission of religious leaders from Nigeria.
Niger’s junta refused to see an earlier Ecowas mediation mission. Coup leaders told US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Niger last week, that they would kill deposed Bazoum, a close Western ally, if there was any regional military intervention to restore his rule, the Associated Press reported, citing two unidentified Western officials. The junta declined Nuland’s request to see Bazoum, 63.
Read More: Niger Junta Cuts Food and Water Supplies to Ousted Leader (2)
The bloc will continue to pursue a diplomatic solution to the crisis, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who currently chairs Ecowas, said Thursday following a meeting of West African heads of state in the capital, Abuja.
The coup in Niger — the sixth in the region in three years — has brought condemnation from Western nations including France and the US, which together have thousands of troops stationed in the country. The country has been a key international ally in the global fight against jihadists in the region.
If successful, the coup would create a belt of military-run countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, most of which are friendlier to Russia than the West.
Read More: What’s Driving Coups in Niger and Across West Africa?: QuickTake
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