Niger coup: ECOWAS troops on standby, junta threatens to kill Bazoum

The safety of ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum may not be guaranteed as the junta which overthrew his government has reportedly threatened to kill him should the Economic Community of West African States attempt any military intervention to restore democracy in the francophone country.

The junta revealed their dark plot to murder the deposed president to a top United States diplomat, two Western officials confirmed to the Associated Press on Thursday.

The threat is coming on the heels of the resolution of the ECOWAS to deploy troops in Niger following the refusal of the military leaders to restore democracy despite the sanctions imposed on them and their collaborators by the regional body.

Speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation, a Western military official said representatives of the junta told the US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland of the threat to Bazoum during her visit to the country on Monday.

According to AP, a US official confirmed the account, also speaking on condition of anonymity, because they were not authorised to speak to the media.

Bazoum, who was deposed on July 26, is being held hostage at his residence.

However, rising from a meeting of the ECOWAS Heads of States and Government in Abuja on Thursday, the President of ECOWAS, Omar Touray, said the bloc had directed the deployment of a “standby force” to restore democracy in Niger after the coup.

But Touray gave no details about the make-up, location and proposed date of deployment for the military intervention force.

Financing had been discussed and “appropriate measures have been taken,” he disclosed.

Reading the resolutions of the ECOWAS on the military junta in Niger at the end of the commission’s extra-ordinary summit, he also called on the African Union, partner countries and institutions to support the decision taken by the sub-regional body.

ECOWAS said all efforts made to hold dialogues with the military junta had been defiantly rejected by the coup leaders as they condemned the continuous detention of Bazoum and his family members.

Before taking the decision, the authority explained that it considered the memorandum presented by the President of the ECOWAS Commission on the current situation in the Republic of Niger, ECOWAS engagement since the last extraordinary summit; the reports of the envoys sent to Niger and various other places and recommendations of the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff.

It also extensively discussed the latest development in Niger since the last extra-ordinary summit was held on July 30, noting that all diplomatic efforts made by ECOWAS in resolving the crisis had been defiantly repelled by the military leadership, including the one-week ultimatum given for the restoration of constitutional order in Niger.

ECOWAS condemns coup

The ECOWAS President said the regional body decided as follows: ‘’Reiterates its strong condemnation of the attempted coup d’etat and the continued illegal detention of President Mohammed Bazoam, his family and members of his government

“Further condemns the condition in which President Bazoum is being detained and hold the CNSP fully and solely responsible for the safety, security and physical integrity of President Bazoum, members of his family and government.

“Uphold all measures and principles agreed upon by the extra-ordinary summit held on Niger on 30th July 2023; Underscore the determination of the ECOWAS authority to keep all options on the table for the peaceful resolution of the crisis.

“Enforce all measures in particular border closures and strict travel bans and assets freeze on all persons or groups of individuals whose actions hinder all peaceful efforts aimed at ensuring the smooth and complete restoration of constitutional order.’’

It further warned member states who by their action directly or indirectly hindered the peaceful resolution of the crisis in Niger about the consequences for their action before the community.

The body ‘’further call on all partner countries and institutions including the United Nations to support ECOWAS, in its effort to ensure a quick restoration of constitutional order, in conformity with its normative instruments.

“Direct the President of the Commission to monitor the implementation of the sanctions; direct the Committee of the Chief of Defence Staff to activate the ECOWAS Standby Force with all its elements immediately.

“Order the deployment of the ECOWAS Standby Force to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger; underscore its continued commitment for the restoration of constitutional order through peaceful means.”

In his remarks at the summit, the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Government, President Bola Tinubu said no option was off the table, including the use of force as the last resort in resolving the Niger crisis.

“You will see from the communiqué of this extraordinary summit that no option is taken off the table including the use of force as the last resort. If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger towards peaceful and democratic stability in the country,” Tinubu said.

The Nigerian leader while admitting that there will be challenges ahead, said that the collective resolve of the ECOWAS would navigate all obstacles for lasting peace and prosperity in Niger and other member countries.

He commended the leaders for their “unwavering commitment” to the sub-region and welfare of the African continent. The road ahead will undoubtedly have challenges but I firmly believe that with our collective resolve we can navigate these obstacles and chart a part towards lasting peace and prosperity for Nigeriens and ECOWAS.

“I send my sincere gratitude to all of you for your dedication and valuable contributions during this extraordinary summit. Your unwavering commitment to ECOWAS and the welfare of our continent is highly commendable.

“I want to thank you for your positive remarks and recognition given to me and the government and the people of Nigeria. May our collective efforts pave the way for a brighter future for Nigeriens and all Africans,” he added.

When asked when the defence chiefs in the region would meet, the Director, Defence Information, Defence Headquarters, Brig. Gen. Tukur Gusau, said ECOWAS would decide that and not the Defence Headquarters.

He said, “It is the responsibility of ECOWAS to convene such meetings, not DHQ.”

UN, US worry

Meanwhile, the US and the United Nations have expressed concern over the health and safety of the deposed president of Niger since the overthrow of his government on July 26.

The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres, said he was concerned about what he called the “horrible living conditions” of Bazoum and his family, who are still being detained by the coup plotters.

According to BBC Hausa, a spokesman for the Secretary-General reported Guterres as expressing great concern for the safety and life of Bazoum and his family, while he also called for the speedy release of the deposed president without any conditions and his return to power.

The decision came after a report by CNN, saying that the junta kept him in solitary confinement and forced him to eat rice.

However, Bazoum also sent a brief text message to a friend, explaining that he had been “without contact since Friday”, and was unable to get more food and medicine.

“We are very concerned about the health and safety of his life and that of his family,” said US state department spokesman Mathew Miller.

Miller added, “As time goes on, he is being held in an isolated location, and that is something we are concerned about.”

Also, Bazoum’s party, PNDS-Tarayya, in a statement also claimed that the ousted President and his family were denied access to drinking water and electricity.

Credit: The Punch

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