Putchists Must Leave or Face ECOWAS Military Action, Niger FM Warns

Niger’s top diplomat said ECOWAS was determined to take military action if the putschists who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum didn’t stand down, in remarks published Friday in a Spanish newspaper.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed heavy economic sanctions on Niger after the July 26 coup and said it would consider military intervention if talks to restore civilian rule fail.

“ECOWAS is determined to carry out a military intervention,” Foreign Minister Hassoumi Massoudou said in an interview with El Pais daily.

On Thursday, Bola Tinubu, president of neighboring Nigeria and chairman of ECOWAS, floated the idea of a nine-month transition back to democracy for Niger’s new regime.

He said Nigeria had been able to return to civilian rule in 1999 following a similar nine-month transition period.

Niger’s military leaders have insisted they want a three-year transition period to restore constitutional order.

“So far (ECOWAS) has opted for the diplomatic route, which is normal. But if all negotiations fail, it can only offer a military solution,” Massoudou said.

The putschists must “relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum,” he told the paper, saying Niger’s leader had “no reason whatsoever” to stand down.

“After that, everything is negotiable, their departure terms can be discussed. But there will be no solution unless Bazoum is reinstated. The only way is if the putschists stand down.”

The overthrown president was in “reasonable health” despite being “held hostage in his own home with his wife and child with the electricity cut off” with temperatures soaring above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit), he said.

“Their living conditions are quite hard, but he is in good spirits.”

Earlier this week, Algeria, which shares a 1,000-kilometre (620-mile) land border with Niger, proposed a six-month transitional plan for its coup-hit neighbor that would be overseen by a civilian power.

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