US, West African bloc critical of plan to try detained Niger president

The United States voiced outrage over threats by Niger’s military rulers to try detained president Mohamed Bazoum, saying the move would worsen tensions.

“We are incredibly dismayed by reports that President Bazoum’s unjust detention has gone even a step further,” State Department spokesman Vedant Patel told reporters on Monday.

“This action is completely unwarranted and unjustified and, candidly, it will not contribute to a peaceful resolution of this crisis.”

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has slapped sanctions on Niger and approved the deployment of a “standby” military force to reverse the July 26 coup, in which the military deposed elected leader Bazoum.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Niger in March in the highest-level visit ever by a US official, spoke on Monday by telephone with President Bola Tinubu of regional heavyweight Nigeria.

Blinken commended Tinubu’s efforts leading ECOWAS and backed “maintaining pressure” on Niger’s military leaders.

ECOWAS condemns plan to prosecute ousted president

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the Nigerien military administration’s plan to prosecute ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.

On Sunday, a spokesman for Niger’s military said Bazoum would be charged with “high treason and undermining the internal and external security” of the country.

In a statement on Monday, ECOWAS said it had learned “with stupefaction” attempts to bring charges against Bazoum.

“ECOWAS condemns this move, it represents yet another form of provocation and contradicts the reported willingness of the military authorities in Niger to restore constitutional order through peaceful means,” the statement said.

“Bazoum remains the democratically elected and recognized president of Niger,” it added.

The bloc reiterated its condemnation of Bazoum’s “illegal detention” and made a fresh demand for his release and reinstatement.

Last week, ECOWAS leaders, at an emergency summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja, ordered to activate its standby force in order to “restore constitutional order” in Niger.

However, on Sunday, a group of senior Nigerian Islamic scholars who visited Niger said the Nigerien military administration was open to a diplomatic approach to resolve their standoff with the regional bloc.

Gen. Abdourahamane Tiani, the former commander of Niger’s presidential guard declared himself the head of a transitional government after Bazoum was ousted by a military intervention on July 26.



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