The threat by Niger’s self-declared military leadership to prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum further jeopardizes efforts to find a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis, the West African regional bloc warned.
(Bloomberg) — The threat by Niger’s self-declared military leadership to prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum further jeopardizes efforts to find a peaceful solution to the country’s crisis, the West African regional bloc warned.
The coup leaders’ plan to charge Bazoum with high treason is a “provocation” that goes against the junta’s earlier willingness to restore democracy through dialog, the Economic Community of West African States said in a statement on Monday.
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 Ecowas last week activated its standby force as it considers military intervention to force the junta to relinquish power. It also imposed sanctions including freezing the nation’s assets at the regional central bank and banning commercial flights — measures junta-installed Prime Minister Ali 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 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
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 Ecowas parliament over the weekend urged the regional bloc to prioritize dialog over force.
“When you go to war you incur more costs,” Emmanuel Bedzrah, a Ghanaian lawmaker and member of the regional parliament, said by phone. “Through diplomatic discussion we believe we can negotiate our way out and the country can easily return to democratic rule.”
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. Niger 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
–With assistance from Modou Joof.
(Adds comment from Ecowas in lede.)
More stories like this are available on bloomberg.com
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.