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ECOWAS, UN, US condemn Niger junta’s decision to prosecute ousted president for treason

ECOWAS, UN, US condemn Niger junta’s decision to prosecute ousted president for treason

The military junta that seized power in Niger in a coup last month has said it will prosecute ousted President Mohamed Bazoum for high treason over his exchanges with foreign heads of state and international organisations.

The United States, United Nations and West African leaders condemned the move, calling it a further sign that the junta is unwilling to seek a peaceful route out of the crisis.

The coup leaders have imprisoned Bazoum and dissolved the elected government, drawing condemnation from global powers and West Africa’s regional bloc ECOWAS, which decided last week to assemble a standby military force that could intervene if diplomacy fails.

At stake is not just the fate of Niger – a major uranium producer and Western ally in the fight against an Islamist insurgency – but also the influence of rival global powers with strategic interests in the region.

Junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said in a statement read out on state TV late on Sunday that the military authorities had “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute the ousted president … for high treason and undermining the internal and external security of Niger”.

U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said the attempt to bring charges against Bazoum was “very worrying” and reiterated calls for the president to be released immediately.

“This action is completely unwarranted and unjustified and, candidly, it will not contribute to a peaceful resolution of this crisis,” U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel said.

ECOWAS says it’s a provocation.

“(This) contradicts the reported willingness of the military authorities in Niger to restore constitutional order through peaceful means,” the regional bloc said.

Residents of Niamey, many of whom were deeply disillusioned with Bazoum’s government and are supporting the coup leaders, said they backed the prosecution of the deposed president.

“This comes as no surprise given that you’ve heard the various declarations and appeals (he made) to the international community not only to impose sanctions but also to intervene militarily on Niger’s territory,” said Illiassou Boubacar, a civil society activist in his 50s.

“But what we would like is for it to be carried out according to the rule book, respecting all procedures and hiring magistrates with the skills required to do the job.”

Mucahid Durmaz, senior West Africa analyst at risk intelligence company Verisk Maplecroft, said the junta wanted to diminish Bazoum’s legitimacy and dissuade foreign powers from trying to reinstate him.

“The prosecution of Bazoum will likely force ECOWAS to soften its stance against the junta and focus on establishing a transitional deal to allow for a return to democratic governance,” he said.

 

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