Falana warns ECOWAS leaders against attacking Niger, seeks stringent sanctions on military junta
Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), has urged the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to “impose more stringent sanctions on Niger Republic and adopt measures to make them work, particularly given the intransigence of the coup plotters.”
This comes two days after ECOWAS declared the country’s airspace a no-flight zone and gave the military junta in Niger one week to cede power with a warning that the “use of force” was not ruled out.
The 15-member ECOWAS demanded “immediate release and reinstatement” of Niger’s elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, who had been held by the military since Wednesday.
But Falana, while reacting to the steps taken by the West African bloc, said apart from suspending Niger from ECOWAS, the leaders of the sub-regional body should refrain from attending international conferences with coup plotters as was recently witnessed during the recently-concluded Russia-Africa Summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia.
According to a statement by Tayo Soyemi of Falana and Falana Chambers, the human rights lawyer gave the advice in his paper titled, “Unconstitutional Change of Governments: the Role of Bar Associations”, delivered, yesterday, at a two-day conference of the West African Bar Association (WABA) in Accra, Ghana.
The paper reads in part: “Last week, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guards’ unit, overthrew the Mohamed Bazoum-led administration and declared himself Niger’s new ruler.
“In a prompt response to the embarrassing development, the Economic Commission of West African States (ECOWAS) gave the junta a seven-day ultimatum to step down from power and restore constitutional rule. ECOWAS leaders threatened to ‘take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order’ and that if its demands were not met, ‘such measures may include the use of force.’”
“While the resolve of the ECOWAS leaders to resort to force to restore President Mohamed Bazoum is understandable, the acceptance of the coup by the majority of the Nigerien people must be seriously considered.
“Having not invaded Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali when power-drunk soldiers sacked democratically-elected governments, ECOWAS leaders should not play into the hands of the enemies of Africa by launching a military attack on Niger.
“The government of Niger has collaborated with Nigeria in prosecuting the counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militancy in a region beset by a security crisis. To that extent, the strategic and geopolitical interests of Nigeria must be taken into consideration.
“The ongoing efforts of the Chadian leader, Gen. Mahamat Idriss Déby, to mediate in the face-off between ECOWAS and the junta should be encouraged. Yesterday, the General met President Mohamed Bazoum in custody in Niger’s capital, Niamey.
“He also met the coup leaders. After the meetings, he said that his mediation effort was aimed at finding a ‘peaceful solution to the crisis which is shaking’ Niger, which borders Chad.
“It should be noted that Niger is a state party to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance. Niger ratified the Charter on October 4, 2011, and deposited its instrument of ratification with the African Union (AU) on November 8, 2011.”
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