September 22, 2023

ECOWAS Imposes Sanctions on Niger Junta, Calls for Immediate Release and Reinstatement of President Bazoum – Vows Decisive Action if Demands Not Met in Seven Days

President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria
President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has taken a strong stance against the recent coup in Niger, imposing sanctions on the junta and demanding the immediate release and reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum. In an extraordinary summit held on Sunday in Abuja, the Nigerian capital, ECOWAS leaders condemned the unconstitutional actions. They warned of decisive action if their demands were unmet within seven days.

In a communique read by the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr. Omar Touray, the regional leaders declared President Bazoum the only recognized and elected President by ECOWAS, the African Union, and the international community. They rejected any resignation claim by President Bazoum and stated that only official acts by him or his duly-mandated officials would be recognized by ECOWAS.

The leaders expressed their grave concern over the illegal detention of President Bazoum, members of his family, and government officials, considering it a hostage situation. They firmly held the authors of the attempted coup responsible for his safety and security, as well as his family and government.

The stakes are high, with ECOWAS leaders vowing to take all necessary measures to restore constitutional order in Niger if their demands are unmet within the given timeframe. Such measures could include using force, and the Chiefs of Defense Staff of ECOWAS have been called to an immediate meeting in preparation for potential action.

The international community has also shown support for ECOWAS’ stance. Various governments and partners have appreciated the regional body’s solidarity and commitment to democracy and peace. However, ECOWAS leaders have strongly condemned the pronouncements of support from foreign governments and private military contractors for the coup attempt.

In response to the coup attempt, the Summit announced a series of sanctions against Niger. These measures include the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger, the establishment of a no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger, and the freezing of assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central Bank and Niger state enterprises and parastatals in commercial banks.

Additionally, Niger will be suspended from all financial assistance and transactions with financial institutions within ECOWAS. The coup plotters and anyone participating in any institution or government established by them will face travel bans and asset freezes.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government Chairperson, thanked fellow leaders and representatives of the African Union and the United Nations for their contributions to the discussions. He emphasized African unity and solidarity, reaffirming their commitment to democracy, peace, and prosperity.

Before the Summit, President Tinubu held bilateral meetings with President Umaro Sissoco Embalo of Guinea Bissau, President Mahmat Iddris Deby Itno of Chad, and Michael Health, the US Deputy Assistant Secretary of African Affairs.

The situation in Niger remains tense, with ECOWAS firmly asserting its support for the legitimate government and the swift restoration of constitutional order. The international community will undoubtedly be closely monitoring developments in the coming days as the junta is faced with the choice of complying with ECOWAS’ demands or facing severe consequences from the regional body.

In the United States, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke on Saturday with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu and “shared his deep concern over the events in Niger and the ongoing detention of democratically elected President Bazoum,” the State Department said.

It added, “The Secretary expressed his thanks for President Tinubu’s leadership, both as President of Nigeria and as Chairman of the Economic Community of West African States, throughout the current crisis. He underscored his support for President Tinubu’s continued efforts to restore constitutional order in Niger.”

Blinken spoke with Nigerien President Bazoum and former president Mahamadou Issoufou on Friday.

“The Secretary reiterated to President Bazoum the United States’ unflagging support and emphasized the importance of his continuing leadership in Niamey,” the State Department said, adding that “he praised Bazoum’s role in promoting security not only in Niger but the wider West Africa region.  Secretary Blinken underscored that the United States will continue to work to ensure the full restoration of constitutional order and democratic rule in Niger.”

The statement added, “The Secretary expressed his grave concern to former President Issoufou that democratically elected President Bazoum remains in detention and that negotiations to ensure constitutional order in Niger were at an impasse.  

“The Secretary regretted that those detaining Bazoum were threatening years of successful cooperation and hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance that support the Nigerien people.  He asked former President Issoufou to continue efforts to resolve the situation in favor of the civilian-led democratically elected government.”

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