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Niger coup leaders threatened to kill ousted President Bazoum in case of military intervention: Officials

Meanwhile, the 15-member regional bloc in West Africa, known as ECOWAS, deployed a 'standby force' to restore Bazoum's presidency in Niger.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Niamey (Niger) Published on: August 10, 2023 23:43 IST
Heads of ECOWAS member states in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday
Image Source : AP Heads of ECOWAS member states in Abuja, Nigeria on Thursday to discuss Niger coup.

In a major development, the Nigerien military junta have threatened to kill ousted President Mohamed Bazoum if neighbouring countries attempt a military intervention in the country to reinstate his rule, according to Western officials. The threat was made by representatives of the junta to US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland during her visit to the country this week, the officials told AP.

This comes after the 15-member regional bloc in West Africa, known as Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Thursday directed the deployment of a 'standby force' to restore Bazoum's presidency and democracy in the country. Leaders of the bloc met in the Nigerian capital Abuja after the Niger coup defied a deadline to reinstate Bazoum.

"It is not one country against another country. The community has instruments to which all members have subscribed to," said Omar Alieu Touray, President of the ECOWAS Commission, blaming the Nigerien junta for the hardship caused by sanctions imposed by the bloc.

The July 26 coup, in which mutinous soldiers installed Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani as head of state and overthrew Bazoum, adds another layer of complexity to West Africa’s Sahel region that’s struggling with military takeovers, spreading Islamic extremism and a shift by some states toward Russia and its proxy, the Wagner mercenary group.

Bazoum is currently detained in the presidential palace in Niamey with his wife and son, and is reportedly running out of food. The family is living under appalling conditions, with no electricity and running water, with only rice and canned goods to eat.

The ECOWAS had demanded coup leaders to release and reinstate Bazoum within a week or face possible force. Senegal and Ivory Coast supported the regional bloc's effort to restore constitutional order in Niger, even as Nigeria’s Senate has pushed back against the plan urging Nigeria’s president to explore options other than the use of force.  

Algeria and Chad, non-ECOWAS neighbors with strong militaries in the region, have said they oppose the use of force or won’t intervene militarily, and neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso — both run by juntas — have said an intervention would be a “declaration of war” against them, too.

Niger was a crucial Western ally and a last defense against extremist attacks by Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in the conflict-torn West African region.

On Wednesday, a Nigerian delegation headed by the former Emir of Kano, Khalifa Muhammad Sanusi, met Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, some of the few people allowed to meet the new Nigerien leader. A delegation led by Nuland was denied access, and separate delegations of ECOWAS, the United Nations and the African Union were barred from entering the country.

Even as the ECOWAS imposed sanctions on the impoverished country of Niger, its threats are unlikely to effect any major changes in the newly military-controlled nation. Niger's junta has already severed military ties with France and asked for help from the Wagner group.

Meanwhile, amid the sanctions, Nigeria cut off some of the electricity supply to Niger, causing a great deal of problems for the citizens, Niger already has limited access to electricity and is heavily dependant on Nigeria.

ALSO READ | Niger coup: Ousted President Bazoum running out of food in detainment, living in appalling conditions


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