Niger: AU moves to penalize Junta’s supporters

The African Union, AU, has directed its commission to compile a list of members of the military junta and their supporters in the Niger Republic for targeted sanctions and “application of individual punitive measures.

The development would add to sanctions already imposed on the junta by the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS leaders, which the AU also endorsed.

The AU also asked for a report on the impact assessment of the ECOWAS standby force, following threats by the economic group to adopt a military approach should the coup leaders fail to restore democratic governance and reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power.

It will be recalled that ECOWAS has rejected the three-year plan by the new military government in the Sahel country to return it to democracy.

This came on a day Nigeria’s former military Head of State and leader of the ECOWAS delegation to Niger, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, (retd), formally presented to President Bola Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, the terms given by the military junta to the sub-region for settlement of the political crisis in the country.

This is even as suspected armed Islamists reportedly killed 12 soldiers in Niger’s remote South-West, according to state television yesterday.

The AU resolutions in a communique issued by the body yesterday, were adopted at a council meeting held on August 14.

The body also suspended Niger from all its activities, following the coup and told its members to avoid any action that might legitimise the junta.

The coup last month has raised alarm among Western allies and democratic African states who fear it could allow Islamist groups active in the Sahel region to expand their reach, and give Russia a foothold to increase its influence.

The ECOWAS has been trying to negotiate with the junta but said it was ready to send troops into Niger to restore constitutional order if diplomatic efforts fail.

In a rare sign of progress yesterday, ECOWAS mediator Abdulsalami Abubakar, said a weekend visit to Niger had been ‘very fruitful’ and that he still has hopes for a peaceful resolution.

“Nobody wants to go to war,” he told reporters in Abuja after briefing President Bola Tinubu on the mission. “We started talking. They (the junta) have made their own points. We’ll get somewhere hopefully,” he said, without giving further details.

The AU Peace and Security Council in the communique also noted ECOWAS’ decision to activate a standby force and asked the AU Commission to assess the economic, social, and security implications of deploying such a force.

The AU reiterated calls for the coup leaders to immediately release elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who had been detained since the coup, and return to their barracks.

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