Saturday, 2nd December 2023

African Union suspends Niger Republic, mounts pressure on coup leaders 

By Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Samson Kukwa-Yanor (Makurdi)
23 August 2023   |   4:16 am
After nearly a month, the African Union (AU) Commission, yesterday, applied further sanctions by suspending Niger Republic from the pan-African bloc until normal constitutional order is restored in the country following the July 26 military coup.

Former Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar (left) and ECOWAS President, Omar Alieu Touray addressing State House correspondents, following a meeting with ECOWAS Chairman and Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu, on the crisis in Niger Republic, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTO: PHILIP OJISUA

• Abdulsalami delivers military junta’s terms to ECOWAS Chairman
• Says meeting with junta fruitful, ‘nobody wants to go war’
• Tinubu may play into the hands of Boko Haram – ECOWAS parliamentarian
• Military intervention is war between brothers, el-Rufai warns

After nearly a month, the African Union (AU) Commission, yesterday, applied further sanctions by suspending Niger Republic from the pan-African bloc until normal constitutional order is restored in the country following the July 26 military coup.

The AU also warned its members to avoid any action that might legitimise the junta.

The decision to suspend Niger from AU was made by the Peace and Security Council of the AU Commission during its latest meeting that dwelt on the situation in the western African country, AU said in a statement.

The council reiterated its “unequivocal condemnation” of the military coup in Niger, which resulted in the ousting of democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum by the military.

The council reaffirmed its full solidarity with the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in its continued commitment to the restoration of constitutional order through diplomatic means.

“The council strongly rejected any external interference by any actor or any country outside the continent in the peace and security affairs in Africa. It also rejected engagements by private military companies in the continent in line with the 1977 OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa,” the statement said.

The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was the predecessor of the AU, before it was disbanded in 2002.

The AU urged the military to place the supreme interests of Niger and its people above all else and to immediately and unconditionally return to the barracks and submit to civilian authorities, which is consistent with the constitution of Niger.

The council also reiterated its deep concern over the resurgence of military coups as it undermines democracy, peace, security, and stability, as well as development on the continent.

Also yesterday, ECOWAS envoy to Niger, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd), formally presented the terms given by the military junta to the sub-region for the settlement of the political crisis in the country. This is as Abubakar gave assurances that the crisis is not likely to deteriorate beyond diplomacy.

Abubakar, who is a former Nigerian military Head of State, spoke to journalists at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, after a meeting convened by President Bola Tinubu, who is the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS.

At the meeting, which included the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, and the National Security Adviser (NSA) to the President, Nuhu Ribadu, Abubakar, who had last weekend held a meeting with the ousted President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, and leaders of the junta, said he had delivered the terms of the Abdouramane Tchiani-led junta to ECOWAS.

He said that there has been exchange of correspondences between the West African regional bloc and the military junta in Niger, noting that the line of contact opened by ECOWAS through his appointment as envoy had been very fruitful. He expressed hope that something concrete will soon come out of it.

Recall that the junta had promised to hand over in three years, which had been rejected by ECOWAS.

While the ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Ambassador Abdel-Fatau Musah, had during an appearance on Channels Television on Monday said ECOWAS was more likely to go to war with Niger, Abubakar, said: “hopefully diplomacy will see the better of this. Nobody wants to go to war, it doesn’t pay anybody, but then, our leaders have said if all fails and I don’t think all will fail, we’ll get somewhere we’ll get out of this mess.”

On the divergence in opinions of both the regional bloc and the junta about a quick return to democratic rule, Abubakar said: “Well, like I said, we’ve started talking, they have made their own points and then I made my report to the Chairman of the ECOWAS Heads of State and President. He will now consult with his colleagues and then the ding-dong starts, and we’ll get somewhere hopefully.”

MEANWHILE, Nigeria’s representative to the ECOWAS parliament, Senator Emmanuel Yisa Orker-Jev, has cautioned on a military solution to the coup in Niger.

In an exclusive interview with The Guardian yesterday, the immediate past Senate committee Vice Chairman on Judiciary, who represented Benue North West, rather advised on diplomacy to resolve the Nigerien impasse.

Senator Jev, who is currently representing the country at the ECOWAS parliament, said President Tinubu may play into the hands of terrorists like the Boko Haram if ECOWAS insist on a military solution.

“We have problems of our own. We have not been able to subdue Boko Haram within our borders. It may cause more problems for us if we have people across the borders colluding with Boko Haram”, he said.

The Senator said that the ECOWAS parliament held an emergency meeting last week and took the decision that “ECOWAS should not be dragged into a military confrontation with the coupists”.

According to the parliamentarian, “in any military confrontation with the junta in Niger, Nigeria will bear the brunt because ECOWAS is funded 70 per cent by Nigeria. In a confrontation, you would be sure that 70 per cent of the funding will come from Nigeria and 70 per cent of the manpower from Nigeria.”

He added that many of the Francophone countries are going “the coup way and rather than wait for the coups to take place before we start to intervene, what ought to be done was to sit back and look at those things that are giving rise to coups in order to avoid them and put a permanent stop to the malaise.”

Also, Nasir el-Rufai, former governor of Kaduna State, has cautioned ECOWAS against military intervention in Niger. In a tweet on Tuesday, el-Rufai said a war within the sub-region would be a war between brothers.

“As ECOWAS beats the drums of war, I recall the 1970s rock classic by Dire Straits – ‘Brothers in Arms’, because a war within our subregion is a war between brothers,” el-Rufai tweeted.

“Indeed, the people of Niger Republic are one and the same with those living in Northern Nigeria. Let us bend therefore over backwards to avoid this civil war between brothers.”

El-Rufai’s call to avoid military intervention in Niger is the latest from stakeholders in Nigeria’s northern region. The Northern Senators Forum (NSF) had also asked Tinubu to exhaust all diplomatic means in resolving the crisis.

The forum warned that deploying Nigerian troops to Niger Republic will hurt seven northern states — Sokoto, Kebbi, Katsina, Zamfara, Jigawa, Yobe and Borno — who share borders with the landlocked West African nation.