West Africa Gives Niger Coup Leaders an Ultimatum

They have 7 days to reinstate President Mohammed Bazoum
By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 31, 2023 8:28 AM CDT
West Africa Gives Niger Coup Leaders an Ultimatum
Nigeriens, some holding Russian flags, participate in a march called by supporters of coup leader Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani in Niamey, Niger, Sunday, July 30, 2023.   (AP Photo/Sam Mednick)

West African nations have given Niger's coup leaders one week to reinstate President Mohammed Bazoum. Should that not come to pass, "the use of force" could follow, warned the 15-nation regional bloc known as ECOWAS on Sunday. The development came two days after the soldiers who staged the coup—the country's seventh "in recent years" by Reuters' count—appeared on TV to declare presidential guard commander Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani the nation's new leader. Bazoum is under house arrest and has not resigned, reports the AP. He was seen for the first time Monday when he met with Chad's leader, Mahamat Idriss Deby, who also met the coup leaders and "is spearheading mediation efforts," per the BBC. Deby came to power in 2021 following a coup.

ECOWAS' Sunday announcement included more than a warning. It and the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union issued a slew of sanctions, including closed borders and a stop to commercial flights to the country. Niger is the world's third poorest country, per UN data, and on the financial front, aid will cease and national assets held in regional central banks have been frozen. Niger's prime minister, who was out of the country when the coup took place and is currently in Paris, said, "I know the fragility of Niger, I know the economic and financial context of Niger having been the finance minister and now prime minister. This is a country that will not be able to resist these kinds of sanctions. It will be catastrophic."

Some context from Reuters on what this could mean from a US perspective: "Niger has been a key ally in Western campaigns against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel, and there are concerns that the coup could open the door to greater Russian influence there." The AP reports that ahead of the ECOWAS announcement, thousands of pro-junta supporters gathered in the capital, Niamey, to burn the flags of its former colonial ruler, France; some held Russian flags aloft. (More Niger stories.)

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