West African military rulers support Niger coup, as new junta arrests politicians
The junta that seized power in Niger last week has gotten the verbal support of fellow military rulers in West Africa.
The juntas of neighbouring Burkina Faso, Mali and Guinea all voiced their support for the coup’s leaders on Monday.
“Mali and Burkina Faso warn that any military intervention in Niger will be considered as a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali,” said a joint statement read on both countries’ national broadcasters.
Meanwhile, the new junta in Niger has detained senior politicians on Monday, their party said, defying international calls to restore democratic rule. It arrested the ousted government’s mines minister, the head of the ruling party and the oil minister, among others.
The overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum has sent shockwaves across West Africa, pitting Niger’s former Western allies against the likes of Russia and other junta leaders in the region.
The African Union, the U.N., the European Union and other powers have condemned the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum – the seventh military takeover in less than three years in West and Central Africa that has undermined democratic progress in one of the world’s poorest regions.
Regional bloc ECOWAS has imposed sanctions, including a halt in all financial transactions and a national assets freeze, and said it could authorise force to reinstate Bazoum, who is still locked in his palace.
US sights opportunity to restore order
In the meantime, a United States official on Monday said the coup had not been fully successful and that there was still an opportunity to reinstate Bazoum. France and Germany echoed those comments.
Last Wednesday’s coup has raised fears for the security of the Sahel region. Niger is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and treating cancer.
The United States, former colonial power France and other Western states have troops in Niger and had been working with the government to overcome an Islamist insurgency by groups linked to Islamic State and al Qaeda.
But attacks on civilians and soldiers persist, fomenting discontent and straining relations with Western powers.
There have been four takeovers in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso during the last two years, all of which have come amid frustrations about growing insecurity. Both countries have turned increasingly towards Russia as an ally.
The coup leaders, who have named General Abdourahamane Tiani, the former presidential guard chief, as head of state, said they overthrew Bazoum over poor governance and discontent with the way he handled the Islamist threat.
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