West African leaders voted to suspend ties with Niger at an emergency summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday over the military coup earlier this week.
ECOWAS also agreed to immediate financial sanctions against Niger and authorized the use of force if the junta doesn’t cede power and release the country’s elected president Mohamed Bazoum from detention.
“In the event the authorities’ demands are not met within one week, take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger,” said Omar Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission.
“Such measures may include the use of force. To this effect, the chiefs of defense staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately.”
The meeting came amid major protests against any intervention by ECOWAS or other powers, and coup supporters also attacked the French Embassy in Niamey.
General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the head of the powerful presidential guard, declared himself the leader of Niger on Friday.
Niger is among the world’s poorest countries and receives nearly $2 billion (€1.8 billion) a year in official development assistance, as per the World Bank.
Niger’s former colonial ruler France and the European Union have already suspended security cooperation and financial aid to the country.
Niger junta warns ECOWAS against intervention
Niger’s military leaders warned against any such military intervention in a televised statement on Saturday night.
“The objective of the (ECOWAS) meeting is to approve a plan of aggression against Niger through an imminent military intervention in Niamey in collaboration with other African countries that are non-members of ECOWAS, and certain western countries,” junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said.
“We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer, of our firm determination to defend our homeland,” he added.
The junta issued another statement calling on citizens in capital Niamey to come out into the streets Sunday from 7 a.m. local time (8 a.m. CET) and demonstrate against ECOWAS to show support for the new military leadership.
Thousands of supporters of the coup in Niger marched through the streets of Niamey on Sunday waving Russian flags and denouncing French influence in West African country.
“I would like also to say to the European Union, African Union and ECOWAS, please please stay out of our business,” one protester told the Associated Press.
“It’s time for us to take our lives, to work for ourselves. It’s time for us to talk about our freedom and liberty. We need to stay together, we need to work together, we need to have our true independence.”
France condemns attack on embassy
The protesters marched through Niamey to the French Embassy.
A source at the embassy told the Associated Press that the protesters lit a door on fire.
The Nigerien army broke up a crowd of protesters as black smoke could be seen rising across the city.
The office of French President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday that it “will not tolerate any attack against France and its interests.”
“Should anyone attack French nationals, the army, diplomats and French interests, they will see France respond in an immediate and intractable manner,” the presidency added.
In a separate statement, the French Foreign Ministry also called on Niger’s security forces to protect embassies from the protesters.
“Nigerien forces have an obligation to ensure the security of our diplomatic missions and consulates as part of the Vienna convention,” the foreign ministry said.
“We call on them to immediately fulfill this obligation.”
zc, dvv/wd (AFP, Reuters, AP)
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