The African Union said it had suspended Niger until civilian rule in the country is restored and would assess the implications of any armed intervention in the troubled Sahel nation now under the military administration headed by General Abdourahamane Tchiani.
In a much-anticipated statement, the African Union (AU) – the 54 member states organization – announced its decision to “immediately suspend the participation of the Republic of Niger from all activities of the AU and its Organs and institutions until the effective restoration of constitutional order in the country.”
The suspension was decided at a meeting on August 14 held by the AU’s Peace and Security Council regarding the military coup in Niger.
The AU called on both its members and the international community to “reject this unconstitutional change of government and to refrain from any action likely to grant legitimacy to the illegal regime in Niger.”
The AU Peace and Security Council also ordered an assessment of the decision by West African bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to prepare a standby force for potential deployment to Niger.
The council will review an assessment of the “economic, social and security implications of deploying a Standby Force in Niger,” it said.
ECOWAS chiefs had initially given the junta a seven-day ultimatum to restore power or face consequences, including military action.
That planned action did not happen as many attempts at dialogue and diplomacy have been made by ECOWAS and allies such as United States and the European Union.
United States and Europe, particularly France backed ECOWAS’ collective decision to resolve it through peaceful mechanism, dialogue and diplomacy.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, in a phone conversation held on August 15, with interim President of Mali, Assimi Goïta, according to media transcript of the Kremlin website.
In a statement, the Kremlin said the call was initiated by Mali, and was focused on ending the situation “through peaceful political and diplomatic means.” There is a sharp contrast: Putin has called for a return to constitutional order in Niger, while Wagner PMC Founder Yevgeny Prigozhin has welcomed the army takeover and smartly offered his military services.
The regional bloc is ready to push ahead with military intervention in Niger and had chosen the “D-Day. Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace & Security, Dr. Abdel-Fatau Musah told a press conference that ECOWAS is not prepared to “engage in endless dialogue” with the junta and military forces are “ready to go anytime the order is given” for military intervention.
The African Union affirmed its “solidarity” with ECOWAS’s efforts to restore constitutional order in Niger “through diplomatic means,” it said.
In the official statement, the African Union urged the military junta to prioritize “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 consistent with the Constitution of Niger.”
Army officers toppled President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, prompting the West African regional bloc ECOWAS to threaten to use force to reinstate him. It has agreed to activate a “standby force” as a last resort to restore democracy in Niger.
The coup has heightened international worries over the Sahel, which faces growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Niger is the fourth nation in West Africa since 2020 to suffer a coup, following Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali.
The juntas in Burkina Faso and Mali have said that any military intervention in their neighbour would be considered a “declaration of war” against their countries.
The coup is the fifth in Niger’s history since the impoverished landlocked state gained independence from France in 1960. Bazoum’s election in 2021 was a landmark, opening the way to the country’s first peaceful transition of power.
He has been held with his family at the president’s official residence since the coup, with growing international concern over his conditions in detention.
Niger is a landlocked nation located in West Africa and well known to be a major uranium producer but has 80% impoverished population. Niger remains one of the poorest countries in the world, regularly ranking at the bottom of the UN’s Human Development Index.