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ECOWAS gives Niger junta one week to cede power, threatens use of force

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has demanded the “immediate release and reinstatement” of elected President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held by the military since Wednesday.

“In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week (ECOWAS) will take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force. For this effect, the chiefs of defence staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately,” the bloc said in a statement after its summit in Abuja, Nigeria, on Sunday.

ECOWAS announced the “suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS member states and Niger”, which is part of the bloc, as well as halting energy transactions.

The ECOWAS leaders who attended the summit in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday
The ECOWAS leaders who attended the summit in Abuja, Nigeria on Sunday

It said it was freezing Niger’s assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks and imposing a “travel ban and asset freeze for the military officials involved in the coup attempt”.

“The same applies to their family members and the civilians who accept to participate in any institutions or government established by these military officials,” said the statement, which was read out at the end of the crisis meeting by Nigerian president and ECOWAS chairman Bola Tinubu.

The leaders of Niger’s military coup said earlier on Sunday that they believed regional body ECOWAS was on the point of staging a military intervention in the capital of the Sahel country.

Speaking ahead of the ECOWAS crisis summit, the junta said: “The aim of this meeting is to approve a plan of aggression against Niger, in the form of an imminent military intervention in Niamey, in cooperation with African countries who are not members of the regional body and certain Western nations.”

The statement was read out on national television on Saturday evening by Amadou Abdramane, a member of the junta which this week ousted President Bazoum and declared itself in charge.

The president of Chad, General Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, was in Niger on Sunday to help resolve the crisis in the country following a coup, a Chad government spokesman told AFP.

Itno was in the capital Niamey “to see what he could bring to solving the crisis,” Aziz Mahamat Saleh said, adding that the trip was on the initiative of Chad, which neighbours Niger.

Former colonial ruler France and the European Union have already suspended security cooperation and financial aid to Niger.

Last year, ECOWAS leaders agreed to create a regional security force to intervene against jihadists and prevent military coups.

Details on how that force would work and its funding are still unclear, with ECOWAS defence ministers expected to make decisions later this year.

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