Monday , June 17 2024

ECOWAS Leaders to Meet Thursday After Niger Junta Defies Deadline

As the United States dispatched a top official to Niamey to urge for a restoration to democracy, the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, scheduled a summit for Thursday to debate the Niger junta’s rejection of an ultimatum to reinstate the ousted president.

The leaders of the July 26 coup had been warned by the presidents of West Africa to disband by Sunday or risk a potential military intervention.

Instead, the junta, led by former Niger presidential guard commander and self-declared ruler of state General Abdourahamane Tiani, shut down the airspace and vowed to defend the nation.

The bloc hasn’t publicly responded, but on Monday it announced it will host the Thursday summit to discuss the deadlock, a move that the US and EU indicated was permissible.

U.S. Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland flew to Niger’s capital Niamey on Monday for “frank and difficult” talks with senior junta officials, who rebuffed calls for a return to democratic order.

“They are quite firm in their view of how they want to proceed, and it does not comport with the Constitution of Niger,” she told reporters late on Monday by phone before leaving Niamey.

“It was difficult today and I will be straight up about that.”

The Sahel region’s struggle with Islamist extremists and Niger’s oil and uranium riches give it strategic and economic importance for the United States, Europe, China, and Russia.

Niamey’s coup leaders have adopted a combative demeanor, regularly declaring their determination to hold firm and battle if necessary. The junta has cited ongoing security concerns as the primary basis for taking control, yet data on attacks reveals that security had been rising.

The junta appointed Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine as the new prime minister on Monday in yet another indication of its determination to maintain control.

“No sacrifice is too much … for our country. We are ready to give our lives,” said economics masters student Soumaila Hamadou on the rain-drenched campus.

On Monday, Niamey was quiet and people appeared to be going about their daily lives, but the disruption in the skies was caused by the closure of Nigerien airspace.

Landlocked Niger is typically above many flight lines that span Africa because it is more than twice the size of France. Air France has stopped travel to and from the Niger-bordering cities of Ouagadougou in Burkina Faso and Bamako in Mali until August 11 and issued a warning that some flight delays might rise.

The region’s sixth coup in three years, the one in Niger, has drawn a stronger response from ECOWAS than previous ones. Because the 15-nation club had stated it would not allow any other similar overthrows, its legitimacy is in jeopardy.

Although they stressed that operational decisions would be made by heads of state, the ECOWAS defense chiefs agreed on Friday on a potential military action plan should the arrested president, Mohamed Bazoum, not be freed and reinstalled.

The vow from the juntas in charge of Mali and Burkina Faso, two other members, to support Niger if necessary, has, however, weakened the unity of the group.

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