Military-ruled Burkina Faso and Mali on Monday warned against any military intervention in Niger to restore Mohamed Bazoum, president toppled by a putsch, saying it would be seen “as a declaration of war” on their two countries.
This warning comes the day after the threat of the use of “force” made by West African leaders, supported by their Western partners, including France, a former colonial power in the region, accused by the soldiers who seized power in Niger for wanting to “intervene militarily”.
“Illegal, illegitimate and inhuman sanctions”
In a joint statement, the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali “warn that any military intervention against Niger would be considered a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali”.
They “warn that any military intervention against Niger would result in the withdrawal of Burkina Faso and Mali from ECOWAS, as well as the adoption of self-defense measures in support of the armed forces and the people of Niger”. They add that they “refuse to apply” the “illegal, illegitimate and inhuman sanctions against the people and the authorities of Niger” decided in Abuja.
On July 30, ECOWAS leaders set a one-week ultimatum to the military junta in Niger for a “full return to constitutional order”, saying they did not rule out a “use of force” if not was not the case. They also decided to “suspend all commercial and financial transactions” between its member states and Niger, and to freeze the assets of military officials involved in the coup.
Pressure to push the perpetrators of the July 26 putsch to quickly restore “constitutional order” is accumulating, coming from all of Niger’s Western and African partners, a country considered essential in the fight against the jihadist groups that are ravaging certain parts of the Sahel countries for years.
“Don’t fall for the trap”
France and the United States, in particular, deploy there respectively 1,500 and 1,100 soldiers who participate in the anti-jihadist fight. France, unfailing support of President Bazoum, appears to be the privileged target of the soldiers who overthrew him. They accused her of wanting to “intervene militarily”, which the head of French diplomacy, Catherine Colonna, denied.
“It’s wrong,” she said on French channel BFMTV. “We have to dismantle the intox and not fall into the trap”, she also declared about the anti-French slogans which notably flourished during a demonstration in front of the French embassy in Niamey on Sunday.
France hailed “the decisions taken by the heads of state” of ECOWAS gathered in Abuja, a meeting also attended by Chadian leader Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno, whose country is not a member of the western organization -African.
The European Union (EU) has warned that it will hold the putschists responsible “for any attacks on civilians, and diplomatic personnel or installations” and will “quickly and resolutely support” the decisions of ECOWAS. Germany and Spain have announced that they are suspending their aid to Niger.
Russia for its part, whose flag was waved by pro-junta demonstrators in Niamey, called “for a restoration of legality in the country as soon as possible” and “for restraint”.
The Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS, in power), denounced the “abusive arrests” of four ministers – Interior, Oil, Mines and Transport -, a former minister and the leader of the party, in a press release sent to AFP on Monday. Sources close to the presidency also reported on the arrest of the Minister of Higher Education. The EU also condemned these arrests and demanded the immediate release of the ministers of the ousted government.
This article is originally published on jeuneafrique.com