By Yusef Taylor, @FlexDan_YT
Chad’s President has met Niger’s coup leaders after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) released a statement giving Niger’s coup leaders a one-week ultimatum. Meanwhile, protesters in Niger have stormed the French Embassy to demonstrate against French interference in their internal Politics.
Days after the coup, the head of Niger’s Presidential guard since 2015, Abdourahmane Tchiani, has declared himself the new leader of Niger after his forces barricaded democratically elected President Bazoum and his family members inside his residence. Coup plotters have been demanding President Bazoum’s immediate resignation which has not materialised.
Niger’s ousted President has been detained by coup plotters who call themselves “the Defence and Security Forces under the National Committee for the Salvation of the People”. Since the coup took effect on Wednesday 26th July 2023, ECOWAS Heads of States, the African Union, other countries and international blocks have condemned the latest coup in West Africa.
In recent years West Africa has faced several coups with democratically elected governments such as Mali, Guinea Conakry and Burkina Faso forcefully taken over by military groups. This will be the fourth West African country to be taken over by military forces in recent years.
In reaction to the coup, ECOWAS Heads of States held an emergency meeting on Saturday 30th July 2023. According to the Communique released yesterday, ECOWAS Heads of States are calling “for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum as President and Head of State of the Republic of Niger, and for the full restoration of constitutional order in the Republic of Niger”.
ECOWAS currently “consider the illegal detention of President Bazoum as a hostage situation and hold the authors of the attempted coup d’état solely and fully responsible for the safety and security of His Excellency President Mohamed Bazoum, as well as members of his family and Government”.
A seven days ultimatum has been put forward to Niger’s Coup Leaders to meet their demands or ECOWAS will “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force; To this effect, the Chiefs of defense staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately”.
Soon after the emergency meeting, Benin President, Patrice Talon told the press that he “believes that all means will be used if necessary to restore constitutional order in Niger but ideally, everything should happen in peace and harmony”.
Following the emergency meeting Chad’s President Muhammed Edriss Deby visited Niger to negotiate with the coup leaders. According to a news report by Al Jazeera, Chad’s President Deby was in Nigeria at the ECOWAS Headquarters in Abuja for a bilateral meeting with Nigeria. Chad is a Central African state and is currently an observer of ECOWAS. ECOWAS is also poised to send an Envoy to deliver their demands. It’s not clear if the Chadian President delivered the ECOWAS message to the coup plotters.
ECOWAS Military Chiefs have been ordered to meet immediately to plan their offensive, meanwhile, ECOWAS has placed measures to isolate Niger by closing land and air borders between ECOWAS Countries and Niger, travel bans and suspensions amongst others.
Coup plotters have reacted to the ECOWAS meeting, saying that “the objective of this [ECOWAS] meeting is to agree a plan of aggression against Niger through an imminent military intervention in Niamey in collaboration with African Nations, non-members of the organisation and certain Western Countries”. The Financial Times has reported that a Russian mercenary organisation “Wagner Group” has shown support for the coup which it called “a battle by the people of Niger against their colonisers” and boasts that their mercenary group would do a better job of restoring order and destroying terrorists than French or US Troops.
Gambian President Adama Barrow who was also at the meeting pledged his support for ECOWAS’ decision in a statement saying he has “noted with concern the recent trend of military takeovers in the ECOWAS region, threatening national and regional peace, stability and development. He called on the regional organisation to work on their earlier recommendations for a Standby Force and enhance dialogue through diplomacy and good neighbourliness for the states and their peoples.”
The statement also quotes the Nigerian President, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is the current Chairperson of ECOWAS Heads of States. According to President Tinubu “without freedom and democracy, there can’t be any development. There must be a strong act to protect the life of H.E Bazoum and make sure he is safe, and democracy is restored in the Republic of Niger. No more time to send a warning signal; it is time for Action.”
Below is our first report on the Niger coup.