Wednesday, September 27

AU and ECOWAS at odds over intervention in Niger on eve of summit

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The new US ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, will arrive in Niamey, the State Department said on Wednesday, but declined to specify when she would travel to the country after a coup last month.

FitzGibbon’s arrival is a signal of Washington’s continued engagement with the situation, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters, adding that there are no plans for her to present her credentials to coup leaders and that it is not necessary for the work at the embassy.

The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, the organ in charge of enforcing the bloc’s decisions, met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday for talks on the crisis in Niger that one African diplomat described as “difficult“. 

According to several sources cited by French media, the council rejected an ECOWAS proposal to stage a military intervention unless the Nigerien military junta cedes power and reinstates President Mohamed Bazoum. Bazoum has been under house arrest since the July 26 coup.

Speaking to FRANCE 24’s sister station RFI, a diplomat who attended the meeting said many southern and northern African member countries were “fiercely against any military intervention”.

On Wednesday the council had still not issued a joint statement on the bloc’s stance.

Seventeen Niger soldiers were killed in an attack by suspected terrorist groups near the border with Mali, the defence ministry has announced.

A detachment of the armed forces was “the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou” on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement, adding that another 20 soldiers had been injured, six of them seriously.

Armed insurgencies have plagued Africa’s Sahel region for more than a decade, breaking out in northern Mali in 2012 before spreading to neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso in 2015.

The military junta that seized power in Niamey last month has pointed to the country’s worsening security situation as justification for its coup.

Niger‘s military-appointed prime minister made a visit to neighbouring Chad on Tuesday, holding talks with President Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, the presidential office said.

The visit came shortly after the West African bloc ECOWAS said military chiefs would meet in Ghana’s capital Accra on Thursday to discuss a possible intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger and reinstate the country’s deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum.

In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and its sister radio RFI, Niger’s exiled foreign minister condemned the putschists’ announcement on Monday that they would prosecute Bazoum for treason, saying the junta had “no legitimacy to try anyone”.

Source: France 24