Niger Coup Leaders Form New Government, Announce 21 Ministers
Niger’s junta leaders have named a new government just as heads of the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, gathered in neighboring Nigeria for an emergency summit.
According to a decree read on state television, the junta named 21 ministers. Three coup leaders were named as the heads of the ministries of defense, interior and sports. No further plans were given in the announcement.
The naming of a new government is the latest snub to regional leaders and follows the junta’s defiance of a Sunday deadline to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
ECOWAS leaders were arriving in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, Thursday to discuss the Niger crisis and agree on a plan of action. The regional bloc has said that it could use force if necessary to restore democracy in Niger.
Niger’s ousted leader has been in detention at his residence since members of the presidential guard took power on July 26. Bazoum’s party said Wednesday that he and his family are running out of food and have been living without electricity and running water for a week. An adviser told The Associated Press that the family has only rice and canned goods left to eat.
Wednesday a former rebel leader and Niger politician launched a movement opposing the military junta that seized power two weeks ago — the first sign of organized resistance to army rule in the West African country
In a statement, Rhissa Ag Boula said his group, the Council of the Resistance for the Republic, will aim to reinstate Bazoum.
Boula is a former minister of tourism and a leader in two Tuareg ethnic insurgencies in Niger, one in the 1990s, the other from 2007 to 2009.
Until Wednesday, Niger’s military junta had rejected diplomatic overtures.
But they allowed two envoys sent by Nigerian President Bola Tinubu into the country, despite its closed borders: Lamido Muhammad Sanusi and Abdullsalami Abubarkar, both prominent traditional leaders.
Sanusi met with General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the coup leader, and Abukarkar met with other representatives at the airport.
“We’ll continue to do our best to bring the two parties together to improve understanding. This is the time for public diplomacy,” Sanusi told reporters upon his return to Abuja.
A day earlier, Niger’s military junta had rejected a proposed diplomatic mission from West African states, the African Union and the United Nations. The junta leaders said a “climate of threatened aggression” made it impossible to hold talks on ending the constitutional crisis in Niger.
Late on Tuesday, ECOWAS said in a statement that it would “continue to deploy all measures in order to restore constitutional order in Niger.” The 15-member bloc, along with Western allies of Niger, have placed a series of financial sanctions against the country since the coup. The financial sanctions could lead to a default on Niger’s debt repayments, Reuters reported.
ECOWAS has threatened to use force to reinstate Bazoum but a deadline on Sunday for Niger’s military to stand down passed without any military intervention