Sierra Leone Telegraph: 31 July 2023:
Leaders of West African States meeting yesterday in Abuja, have strongly condemned the military coup which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and his government in Niger last week. The ECOWAS Heads of States have given the coup leaders one week to hand over power to the President and return to their barracks.
Western nations have suspended financial aid and military collaboration with Niger, calling for a swift return to civilian rule.
The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement yesterday that Britain “condemns in the strongest possible terms attempts to undermine democracy, peace and stability in Niger”. “The Communique agreed at the Fifty First Extraordinary Summit on the Socio-Political Situation in the Republic of Niger, held by ECOWAS on 30 July sets out a strong and clear response to this infringement of the democratic rights of the people of Niger. We continue to stand by ECOWAS and their efforts to ensure a return to democracy in Niger.”
US secretary of state Antony Blinken said the continued security and economic arrangements between Niger and the US is now dependent on the release of President Bazoum (Photo below) and “the immediate restoration of the democratic order in Niger”.
ECOWAS leaders said in a statement yesterday that: “In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week we will take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force.”
French President Emmanuel Macron said that he would “not tolerate any attack against France and its interests and will respond immediately and intractably” to any provocation.
Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu (Photo below), who is the chair of ECOWAS said at the ECOWAS summit in Abuja yesterday: “There’s no more time for us to send a warning signal, it’s time for action.”
Mr Bazoum was elected two years ago in Niger’s first peaceful, democratic transfer of power since independence from France.
But the military leaders in Niger are defiant, warning against any military intervention by foreign forces. Spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said: “We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer of our firm determination to defend our homeland.”
Reaction to the coup in Mali is mixed, with many civilians supporting the military take-over, accusing the president and his government of corruption and poor governance. Thousands of supporters of the military junta surrounded the French embassy in Niamey, Niger’s capital, setting the gates alight and chanting anti-French and pro-Russian slogans.
But the majority of Malians, though poor, would like to see the return of a civilian government through democratic means.
Defending the decision of the army to oust the government, General Tchiani (Photo) said that the military could no longer stand by and “witness the gradual and inevitable demise of our country.” “That is why we decided to intervene and take responsibility.”
Mr Bazoum had been seen as a key Western ally in the region in the fight against extremists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
Last Thursday, General Tchiani appealed to those countries he referred to as friends of Niger, saying: “I ask the technical and financial partners who are friends of Niger to understand the specific situation of our country in order to provide it with all the support necessary to enable it to meet the challenges.”
Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, receiving close to $2bn (£1.6bn) a year in official development assistance, according to the World Bank.
France, which ruled Niger as a colony until 1960, has 1,500 soldiers in the country, who had been conducting joint operations with its government.
Mo Ibrahim, who is founder and Chair of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation and Co-founder and Co-Chair of the Africa-Europe Foundation issued this statement in response to the coup: “We are deeply concerned by the events unfolding in Niger, which seriously threaten democracy and regional stability.
“Niger, like most countries in the region, faces several longstanding climate, economic and security challenges, which successive administrations have led the way in addressing. Nothing can justify the overthrowing of a democratically elected government.
“The current situation risks undermining the progress in tackling some of the country’s most deeply entrenched challenges.
“Once again, we see armed forces in African countries turn their guns against their governments rather than protecting their own people and fighting terrorist threats.
“It is critical that the people of Niger’s right to democracy and stability is protected, constitutional order restored, and President Bazoum immediately re-instated.”
YOU CAN READ STATEMENT BY THE ECOWAS LEADERS HERE: