The military regime that seized power in Niger in a coup in late July said on Monday it would bring ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to trial on charges of “high treason” and undermining state security.
In a televised announcement, junta spokesman Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane said the regime “is gathering the necessary evidence to prosecute before the competent national and international authorities the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason and for undermining Niger’s internal and external security. .”
Bazoum, the democratically elected president of the West African country, was ousted in a coup on July 26 and has since been housed in his presidential residence with his son and wife.
Condemnation from ECOWAS, UN
The junta’s announcement was criticized by the international community, including the United Nations and the regional bloc ECOWAS.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that the charges against Bazoum were “very concerning.”
“We remain extremely concerned about the state of birth, health and safety of the president and his family, and we also call for his immediate and unconditional release and his reinstatement as head of state,” he said. .
ECOWAS, meanwhile, rejected the move in a statement, saying it was shocked to learn about it. The bloc argued that this “represents another form of provocation and goes against the reported willingness of the military authorities of the Republic of Niger to restore constitutional order through peaceful means.”
‘Open to explore diplomacy’
The decision to indict Bazoum came shortly after reports by mediators that the junta is ready to consider a diplomatic solution to its stand-off with ECOWAS.
A group of senior Nigerian Islamic scholars quoted coup leader General Abdourahmane Tchiani as saying “their doors are open to explore diplomacy and peace to resolve the matter.”
They met the leader of the junta in the capital, Niamey.
Tchiani highlighted the historic relationship between Niger and Nigeria, saying that the countries “are not only neighbors but brothers who must solve issues in a good way.”
Tchiani defended the coup
The discussion among Nigerian scholars was chaired by Sheikh Abdullahi Bala Lau and took place after ECOWAS called for Bazoum to be reinstated as president.
Tchiani “claimed that the coup was well-intentioned” and that the plotters “strike to prevent an imminent threat affecting” Nigeria as well as Niger, according to Lau’s statement.
But Tchiani said it was “painful” that ECOWAS issued an ultimatum to return Bazoum without hearing “their side of the matter.”
First delegation from ECOWAS
Niger’s new military rulers have so far refused to receive any official ECOWAS delegation. One delegation had to leave after a short stay at the airport, and the other was banned from entering the country.
The clerics’ visit comes as ECOWAS, currently chaired by Nigeria, is exploring its options to restore civilian rule in Niger. The bloc imposed sanctions and threatened to use military force if the putschists did not return President Bazoum.
Any military intervention in the bloc could further strain relations in the region, as the juntas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea have expressed support for Niger’s new military chiefs.
Fear of Russian influence
Niger, a country of about 26 million people with one of the poorest populations in the world, is one of the last democratic partners of the US and European countries in the Sahel region south of the Sahara.
US, French, German and Italian troops are stationed in Niger, a region where local affiliates of the terrorist groups al-Qaeda and the so-called “Islamic State” have killed thousands and displaced millions. .
Meanwhile, Western powers fear that Russia’s power could increase if Niger’s junta follows Mali and Burkina Faso, which expelled troops from former colonial power France after coups in those countries.
The presence of the Wagner group, the private Russian paramilitary mercenary unit, in Mali in particular has raised concerns in the West about Russian influence in the region.
dh/lo (AFP, dpa, Reuters)