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Niger: AU Plans Sanctions Against Junta’s Supporters

The African Union, AU, yesterday asked its commission to compile a list of members of the military junta and their supporters in the Niger Republic for targeted sanctions and “application of individual punitive measures.’’

This will be in addition to sanctions already imposed on the junta by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS leaders, which the AU also endorsed.

The AU also asked for a report on the impact assessment of the ECOWAS standby force, following threats by the economic group to adopt a military approach should the coup leaders fail to restore democratic governance and reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power.

It will be recalled that ECOWAS has rejected the three-year plan by the new military government in the Sahel country to return it to democracy.

This came on a day Nigeria’s former military Head of State and leader of the ECOWAS delegation to Niger, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, (retd), formally presented to President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the terms given by the military junta to the sub-region for settlement of the political crisis in the country.

This is even as suspected armed Islamists killed 12 soldiers in Niger’s remote South-West, according to state television yesterday.

AU’s resolutions

The AU resolutions in a communique issued by the body yesterday, were adopted at a council meeting held on August 14.

The body also suspended Niger from all its activities, following the coup and told its members to avoid any action that might legitimise the junta.

The coup last month has raised alarm among Western allies and democratic African states who fear it could allow Islamist groups active in the Sahel region to expand their reach, and give Russia a foothold to increase its influence.

The ECOWAS has been trying to negotiate with the junta but said it was ready to send troops into Niger to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.

Thousands of youths answer Niger junta's call for volunteers ahead of ECOWAS invasion
Signs of progress. 

In a rare sign of progress yesterday, ECOWAS mediator Abdulsalami Abubakar, said a weekend visit to Niger had been ‘very fruitful’ and that he still has hopes for a peaceful resolution.

“Nobody wants to go to war,” he told reporters in Abuja after briefing President Bola Tinubu on the mission. “We started talking. They (the junta) have made their own points. We’ll get somewhere hopefully,” he said, without giving further details.

The AU Peace and Security Council in the communique also noted ECOWAS’ decision to activate a standby force and asked the AU Commission to assess the economic, social, and security implications of deploying such a force.

The AU reiterated calls for the coup leaders to immediately release elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who had been detained since the coup, and return to their barracks.

The ECOWAS Parliament, one of the regional bloc’s institutions, is against sending in troops, according to Nigeria’s representative, Senator Ali Ndume.

He said: “Our stand is informed by the grave implications of a military intervention in Niger. (There is) no alternative to a diplomatic solution,” he told journalists in Abuja yesterday, following a parliamentary meeting in Niger the previous night.

Suspected jihadists kill 12 Niger troops, says state TV

Meanwhile, suspected armed Islamists have killed 12 soldiers in Niger’s remote southwest, state television reported yesterday, in the latest attack since army officers seized power last month.

An anti-jihadist operation by national guards was “the target of an ambush” Sunday evening at the locality of Anzourou in the Tillaberi region, Tele Sahel said.

It added that the troops’ response led to heavy losses being inflicted on the enemy.”

The troops have already been buried, in a ceremony attended by the province’s military governor, Lieutenant-Colonel Maina Boucar.

At least 17 soldiers were killed on August 15 near the town of Koutougou, also in Tillaberi, the authorities said.

Twenty other soldiers were wounded, and more than 100 of the assailants were “neutralised” while retreating on motorbikes, they said.

A source said the onslaught of the jihadists in the country explained the interest of western countries there.

Power cuts in Niger may spoil millions of vaccines as sanctions take their toll, UN says
In a similar development, the United Nations is spending over 20 times more money than usual on fuel for generators to keep millions of vaccines in Niger from spoiling due to incessant power cuts.

The outages are the result of severe economic and travel sanctions imposed by ECOWAS leaders.

Country representative for the United Nations Children’s Fund in Niger, Stefano Savi, told The Associated Press late Monday that it had spent $200,000 powering generators to keep vaccines, including for polio and rotavirus, across the country during the first three weeks of August.

According to Savi, that figure is up from approximately $10,000 a month previously and that the agency might soon run out of money, he said.

Niger relies on neighbouring Nigeria for up to 90% of its power, but after soldiers ousted democratically elected President Bazoum in July, Nigeria cut off part of its electricity supply as part of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS.

The sanctions are taking a toll on the population with the price of goods rising, residents unable to easily access cash, and people living in the dark.

Now, there are mounting concerns it will gravely impact the health system, particularly the ability to keep some 28 million vaccine doses in the country cold.

Abdulsalami delivers military junta’s terms to ECOWAS

Also yesterday, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, envoy to Niger Republic, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, retd, formally presented the terms given by the military junta to the sub-region for the settlement of the political crisis in the country to President Bola Tinubu in Abuja.

He also gave assurances that the crisis in Niger is not likely to deteriorate beyond diplomacy.
Abubakar, who was former Nigerian Military Head of State, spoke to journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a meeting convened by President Bola Tinubu, who is the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS.

In attendance at the meeting were the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, and the National Security Adviser, NSA, to the President, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu.

General Abubakar, who last weekend met with the ousted President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, and leaders of the junta in the country, said he had delivered the terms of the Abdouramane Tchiani-led junta to ECOWAS.

He said there had been an exchange of correspondences between the West African regional bloc and the military junta in Niger, noting that the line of contact opened by ECOWAS through his appointment as envoy had been very fruitful.

Visit to Niger fruitful

Abubakar, who expressed hope that something concrete would soon come out of the whole process, said: “As you are aware, the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government have made me an envoy to Niger Republic and we were there over the weekend to see the military people and discussed to find a way out of the lacuna we find ourselves.

“So, that’s why I’m here this afternoon, together with the President of the ECOWAS Commission, to give a report back to Mr President on our discussions in Niger. I must say our visit to Niger has been very fruitful and has opened an avenue to start talking and hopefully, we will get somewhere.“

On the divergence in opinions of both the regional bloc and the junta about a quick return to democratic rule, Abubakar said “Well, like I said, we’ve started talking, they have made their own points and then I made my report to the chairman of ECOWAS Heads of State and President.

‘’He will now consult with his colleagues and then the ding-dong starts and we’ll get somewhere hopefully.”

Asked if there was any possibility of avoiding military action, he said “Hopefully diplomacy will see the better of this.

‘’Nobody wants to go to war, it doesn’t pay anybody, but then again, our leaders have said if all fails and I don’t think all will fail, we’ll get somewhere, we’ll get out of this mess.”

Military intervention in Niger is a war between brothers, El-Rufai tells ECOWAS
Also rejecting military approach to resolving the crisis yesterday, former governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, warned ECOWAS against any military intervention.

His stance tallies with the position of Northern Senators Forum, the National Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, JNI, Catholic Bishop Conference of Nigeria, CBCN, the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, and Northern Elders Forum, NEF, which have all kicked against military intervention in Niger.

In a statement via X, formerly known as Twitter, El-Rufai said: “As ECOWAS beats the drums of war, I recall the 1970s rock classic by Dire Straits – ‘Brothers in Arms’, because a war within our sub-region is a war between brothers.

‘’Indeed, the people of Niger Republic are one and the same with those living in Northern Nigeria. Let us bend, therefore, over backwards to avoid this civil war between brothers.”

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