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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

Tensions rise as West African nations put together to ship troops to revive democracy in Niger

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NIAMEY, Niger — Tensions are escalating between Niger’s new army regime and the West African regional bloc that has ordered the deployment of troops to revive Niger’s flailing democracy.

The ECOWAS bloc stated on Thursday it had directed a “standby drive” to revive constitutional order in Niger after its Sunday deadline to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum expired.

Hours earlier, two Western officers advised The Related Press that Niger’s junta had advised a prime U.S. diplomat they’d kill Bazoum if neighboring nations tried any army intervention to revive his rule.

It is unclear when or the place the drive will deploy and which nations from the 15-member bloc would contribute to it. Battle specialists say it will possible comprise some 5,000 troops led by Nigeria and might be prepared inside weeks.

After the ECOWAS assembly, neighboring Ivory Coast’s president, Alassane Ouattara, stated his nation would participate within the army operation, together with Nigeria and Benin.

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“Ivory Coast will present a battalion and has made all of the monetary preparations … We’re decided to put in Bazoum in his place. Our goal is peace and stability within the sub-region,” Ouattara stated on state tv.

Niger, an impoverished nation of some 25 million folks, was seen as one of many final hopes for Western nations to companion with in beating again a jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group that is ravaged the area. France and america have greater than 2,500 army personnel in Niger and along with different European companions had poured lots of of hundreds of thousands of {dollars} into propping up its army.

The junta liable for spearheading the coup, led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, has exploited anti-French sentiment among the many inhabitants to shore up its help.

On Thursday night time after the summit, France’s overseas ministry stated it supported “all conclusions adopted.” U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated his nation appreciated “the willpower of ECOWAS to discover all choices for the peaceable decision of the disaster” and would maintain the junta accountable for the security and safety of President Bazoum. Nevertheless, he didn’t specify whether or not the U.S. supported the deployment of troops.

The mutinous troopers that ousted Bazoum greater than two weeks in the past have entrenched themselves in energy, seem closed to dialogue and have refused to launch the president. Representatives of the junta advised U.S. Beneath Secretary of State Victoria Nuland of the menace to Bazoum’s life throughout her go to to the nation this week, a Western army official stated, talking on situation of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the scenario.

A U.S. official confirmed that account, additionally talking on situation of anonymity, as a result of they weren’t approved to talk to the media.

“The menace to kill Bazoum is grim,” stated Alexander Thurston, assistant professor of political science on the College of Cincinnati. There have been unwritten guidelines till now about how overthrown presidents will probably be handled and violence towards Bazoum would evoke a few of the worst coups of the previous, he stated.

Human Rights Watch stated Friday that it had spoken to Bazoum, who stated that his 20-year-old son was sick with a severe coronary heart situation and has been refused entry to a physician. The president stated he hasn’t had electrical energy for practically 10 days and is not allowed to see household, pals or deliver provides into the home.

It is unclear if the menace on Bazoum’s life would change ECOWAS’ determination to intervene army. It would give them pause, or push the events nearer to dialogue, however the scenario has entered uncharted territory, analysts say.

“An ECOWAS invasion to revive constitutional order into a rustic of Niger’s dimension and inhabitants can be unprecedented,” stated Nate Allen, an affiliate professor on the Africa Middle for Strategic Research. Niger has a pretty big and well-trained military that, if it actively resisted an invasion, might pose vital issues for ECOWAS. This might be a really massive and vital endeavor, he stated.

Whereas the area oscillates between mediation and getting ready for battle, Nigeriens are struggling the affect of harsh financial and journey sanctions imposed by ECOWAS.

Earlier than the coup, greater than 4 million Nigeriens had been reliant on humanitarian help and the scenario might turn into extra dire, stated Louise Aubin, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in Niger.

“The scenario is alarming. … We’ll see an exponential rise and extra folks needing extra humanitarian help,” she stated, including that the closure of land and air borders makes it laborious to deliver assist into the nation and it’s unclear how lengthy the present inventory will final.

Support teams are battling restrictions on a number of fronts.

ECOWAS sanctions have banned the motion of products between member nations, making it laborious to herald supplies. The World Meals Program has some 30 vans caught on the Benin border unable to cross. Humanitarians are additionally making an attempt to navigate restrictions throughout the nation because the junta has closed the airspace, making it laborious to get clearance to fly the humanitarian planes that transport items and personnel to hard-hit areas.

Flights are cleared on a case-by-case foundation and there’s irregular entry to gas, which disrupts assist operations, Aubin stated.

The U.N. has requested ECOWAS to make exceptions to the sanctions and is chatting with Niger’s overseas ministry about doing the identical throughout the nation.


Related Press reporters Matthew Lee in Washington, D.C, Elaine Ganley in Paris and Toussaint N’Gotta in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, contributed.

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