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War brews in Nigeria’s Northern border as West Africa threatens force on Niger coup leaders

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Nigerien security forces prepare to disperse pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy, in Niamey, the capital city of Niger July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Souleymane Ag Anara

West African nations imposed sanctions and threatened force on Sunday if Niger’s coup leaders fail to reinstate ousted President Mohammed Bazoum within a week, while supporters of the junta attacked the French embassy in Niamey.

The 15-nation ECOWAS bloc’s response to the Sahel region’s seventh coup of recent years came as crowds in Niger’s capital Niamey burned French flags and stoned the former colonial power’s mission, drawing tear gas from police.

Images showed fires at the embassy walls and people being loaded into ambulances with bloodied legs.

At an emergency summit in Nigeria to discuss last week’s coup, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States called for constitutional order to be restored, warning of reprisals if not.

“Such measures may include the use of force,” their communique said, adding that defence officials would meet immediately to that effect.

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Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby, who came to power in 2021 after a coup, met his Nigerian counterpart Bola Tinubu on the sidelines of the summit and volunteered to speak to the military leaders in Niger, two presidential aides told Reuters, asking not to be identified.

Niger’s state TV showed Deby arriving and meeting them.

ECOWAS and the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union said that with immediate effect borders with Niger would be closed, commercial flights banned, financial transactions halted, national assets frozen and aid ended

Military officials involved in the coup would be banned from travelling and have their assets frozen, it added.

Niger’s prime minister under Bazoum’s government, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, said ECOWAS sanctions would be disastrous because the country relies heavily on international partners to cover its budgetary needs.

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“I know the fragility of Niger, I know the economic and financial context of Niger having been the finance minister and now prime minister,” Mahamadou, who was abroad when the coup occurred, told France24 television from Paris.

“This is a country that will not be able to resist these kinds of sanctions. It will be catastrophic.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed ECOWAS’s action on Sunday.

“We join ECOWAS and regional leaders in calling for the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family and the restoration of all state functions to the legitimate, democratically-elected government,” said Blinken in a statement.

CAN SANCTIONS WORK?

Similar sanctions were imposed by ECOWAS on Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea following coups in those countries in the past three years.

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Although the financial sanctions led to defaults on debt – in Mali in particular – such measures have tended to hurt civilians more than the military leaders who seized power in some of the world’s poorest countries, political analysts say. Timelines to restore civilian rule have been agreed in all three countries, but there has been little progress implementing them.

The military coup in Niger, which began unfolding on Wednesday, has been widely condemned by neighbours and international partners including the United States, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and former colonial power France.

They have all refused to recognise the new leaders led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.

Niger has been a key ally in Western campaigns against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel, and there are concerns that the coup could open the door to greater Russian influence there. Thousands of French troops were forced to withdraw from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso following coups there.

Niger is one of the poorest countries in the world, receiving close to $2 billion a year in official development assistance, according to the World Bank.

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The United States, France, Italy and Germany have troops there on military training and missions to fight Islamist insurgents. Niger is also the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and in nuclear weapons, as well as for treating cancer.

Ahead of the summit, Niger’s junta had warned that ECOWAS was considering an imminent military intervention in collaboration with other African and some Western nations.

“We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer, of our firm determination to defend our homeland,” junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said.

‘COUP ERA MUST STOP’

At their invitation, thousands of people rallied in the capital on Sunday, some heading to France’s embassy.

“We are here to express our discontent against France’s interference in Niger’s affairs. Niger is an independent and sovereign country, so France’s decisions have no influence on us,” said protester Sani Idrissa.

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Similar to events in neighbouring Burkina Faso in September last year following a coup, some protesters tried to climb the embassy walls, while others stomped on burning French flags.

They were dispersed by Niger national guard.

France condemned the violence and said anyone attacking its nationals or interests would face a swift and stern response.

“The era of coups d’etat in Africa must stop. They are not acceptable,” French foreign minister Catherine Colonna Catherine Colonna told RTL radio, adding that the situation had calmed by the afternoon and no evacuation of French citizens was planned.

The European Union and France have cut off financial support to Niger and the United States has threatened to do the same.

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Sunday’s ECOWAS communique thanked nations in line with the bloc’s stance but “condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors.”

Russia’s Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month, has hailed the coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

-Reuters

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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POLITICS

King Mohammed VI Invites Tinubu To Morocco –

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Morocco’s monarch, King Mohammed VI has invited Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu to Morocco after having a telephone conversation with the Nigerian leader. According to a statement  during a phone exchange that took place today.

A statement from the royal palace said that the two leaders discussed the development of bilateral relations between Morocco and Nigeria over the past few years.

The discussion also covered the African-Atlantic Gas Pipeline, which is a structuring project between Nigeria and Morocco that will be a strategic lever for regional integration and socio-economic development for all West African countries.

Initiated in 2016 first by King Mohammed VI and former president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, the pipeline aims to promote regional integration and reinforce Africa’s energy security. Morocco is set to host over 1600 kilometers of the project, which is 5,600 kilometers long in total.

King Mohammed VI has frequently emphasized the importance of the project, reiterating Morocco’s commitment to the pipeline project with Nigeria.In November 2023, during a speech the King gave commemorating the Green March, he stressed the potential benefits that the pipeline could bring not only to Africa but also to Europe.

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“The Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline  strategic project is part of that endeavor,” he said, referring to the purpose of the project; to promote regional integration and boost economic growth.
The pipeline is set to connect over 11 countries in the region to benefit from Nigerian gas sources.
Many countries have endorsed the project, including Senegal.

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US reaffirms support for Morocco’s Autonomy Plan on Western Sahara

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The US State Department has affirmed the country’s support for Morocco on the Western Sahara issue.

In a statement of support issued on Sunday, the Americans remarked: “There is no change in the clear and consistent U.S. position regarding the Moroccan Sahara issue.”

 

The statement is published on the eve of the visit to Morocco of U.S. Assistant Secretary for North Africa Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs Joshua Harris, the State Department stressed that during his talks in Rabat, the U.S. official will reiterate that “there is no change in the clear and consistent U.S. position.”

This new reaffirmation of the consistency of Washington’s position provides a scathing denial of the fallacious allegations conveyed by some Algerian media outlets which have insinuated, following the recent visit to Algiers made by the U.S. official, an alleged change in the U.S. position on the Sahara issue.

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“The United States fully supports UN Personal Envoy de Mistura in facilitating the negotiations process to achieve a just, lasting, and mutually acceptable solution for the Sahara,” the statement points out.

After recalling that the United States “believes a negotiated political solution should be realized without further delay,” the same source underlines that “the outcome of UN-led negotiations – mutually agreed to by the parties and reflecting their commitment to UN efforts in a spirit of realism and compromise – would constitute the final resolution to this issue.”

“In this regard, the United States continues to view Morocco’s Autonomy Proposal as serious, credible, and realistic,” it says.

The visit to Rabat of Deputy Assistant Secretary Joshua Harris will also focus on the means to further strengthen the U.S.-Morocco partnership in addition to a range of regional security priorities, the statement stress

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Morocco, UAE strengthen ties

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King Mohammed VI of Morocco and President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates

Morocco’s monarch, King Mohammed VI and United Arab Emirate’s President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan on Monday engaged in high-level talks aimed at bolstering bilateral cooperation on Monday.

They issued a press release in which both countries highlighted the mutual appreciation and deep-rooted affection.

King Mohammed VI commended President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for successfully overseeing the 28th Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28) held in Dubai.

The meeting showcased the two countries’ shared commitment to boost ties, with emphasis on a multidimensional partnership across many spheres.

King Mohammed VI underscored Morocco’s strides in infrastructure and structural reforms, outlining a vision of economic and social development through strategic investments.

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On his part, President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan hailed Morocco’s potential as an investment hub, acknowledging the nation’s diverse assets and conducive business climate. The leaders affirmed their intent to cultivate innovative partnerships, exploring collaborative ventures that would benefit both nations economically and socially.

They also expressed keen interest in implementing joint action plans based on signed agreements, aiming to pioneer common partnerships in regional and international markets.

King Mohammed VI extended gratitude to President Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan for the UAE’s unwavering support on national issues and Morocco’s development.

The talks concluded with an optimistic outlook, fostering a renewed sense of cooperation and shared aspirations for the future.

Following the talks, the two leaders signed a joint declaration, committing to boosting bilateral ties and cooperation in a wide range of sectors.

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The declaration is titled “Towards an Innovative, Renewed, and Deep-rooted Partnership,” and aims to strengthen ties between the two countries through win-win economic ties.

The declaration’s text indicates that King Mohammed VI’s visit to the UAE came at the invitation of Al Nahyan.

“During their bilateral talks… the two Heads of State reiterated their firm and resolute commitment to elevate the relations between the two countries and their mutual cooperation towards broader horizons, through active economic partnerships serving their shared supreme interests, generating progress and prosperity for the two brotherly peoples,” the declaration reads.

The declaration expresses the two countries’ desire to work towards elevating bilateral ties in economic, commercial, investment, and industrial aspects to the “level of deep political” ties to serve the development goals of both countries.

The two countries also aspire to establish a model of comprehensive and balanced economic and investment cooperation open to the private sector, attracting benefits for both.

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