Niger coup leaders agree to transition terms, says Togo mediator

Niger’s ruling military has agreed to terms and conditions of a transition back to civilian rule, and will present the plan to a regional bloc, the chief diplomat from mediator Togo announced Thursday.

Speaking on Niger’s national television, Togo Foreign Minister Robert Dussey said he had reached an agreement “on the content and timing of the transition” with Niger’s junta-appointed prime minister Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine and foreign minister Bakary Yaou Sangare.

“We are ready to present the plan… to the mediating heads of state and the ECOWAS Commission,” he said, referring to the Economic Community of West African States.

After Niger became the latest country in the Sahel to experience a coup with July’s ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum, the regional grouping imposed tough sanctions and suspended trade, while also floating the option of military intervention.

The sanctions and suspension of international finance and aid have left Niger, already one of the world’s poorest countries, economically hanging by a thread.

In October, the military leaders announced a 40-percent cut in the 2023 budget due to the “heavy sanctions imposed by international and regional organisations”.

On Sunday, ECOWAS leaders in Abuja said any easing of the punitive measures against Niger was contingent on a “short transition” period.

The bloc also decided that a committee made up of the presidents of Benin, Togo and Sierra Leone would lead negotiations with the Nigerien military leaders on the commitments to be implemented.

According to Niger’s broadcaster, Tele Sahel, mediator Dussey will return to Niamey in January with his counterpart from Sierra Leone, Timothy Kabba.

ECOWAS said on Thursday that Niger is now “suspended from all decision-making bodies” of the organisation, “until constitutional order is re-established”.

Niger’s military leaders have previously said they want up to three years for a transition back to civilian rule.

Since the coup, Niger — one of the Sahel nations battling long-running and bloody insurgencies by rebels affiliated with Al-Qaeda or the Islamic State group — has rowed back security cooperation with Western partners and expelled French troops based there.

(AFP)

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Niger: ECOWAS panel to resume talks, more sanctions loom

The Authority of Heads of the Economic Community of West African States, on Sunday, resolved to begin talks with Niger’s National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland—also known as the CNSP—on a short transition roadmap, establish transition organs and to facilitate the setting up of a transition monitoring and evaluation mechanism.

It said the goal was to ensure a speedy restoration of constitutional order in the country whose constitutional leadership was toppled in late July 2023.

The President of ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Touray, revealed this when he read the communique at the 64th Ordinary Session of the Authority of Heads of State and Government at the State House Conference Centre, Abuja.

At Sunday’s meeting, the third since President Bola Tinubu assumed the chairmanship of the body last June, the bloc agreed that the committee would comprise Presidents Faure Gnassingbé of Togo, Julius Bio of Sierra Leone and Patrice Talon of the Republic of Benin.

According to Touray, the bloc will either progressively ease the current sanctions on the Niger Republic if the junta cooperates with these efforts or maintain current sanctions in the event of non-compliance.

The ECOWAS also threatened to request the African Union to impose harsher sanctions on members of the CNSP and their associates even as it readies its standby force for possible military intervention.

Touray said, “The Authority decides to set up a committee of heads of state made up of the President and head of state of the Republic of Togo, the President and the head of state of the Republic of Sierra Leone, the President and head of state of the Republic of Benin, to engage with CMSP and other stakeholders with a view to agreeing on a short transition roadmap, establishing transition organs as well as facilitating the setting up of a transition monitoring and evaluation mechanism towards the speedy restoration of constitutional order.

“Based on the outcomes of the engagement by the committee of heads of state with the CNSP, the Authority will progressively ease the sanctions imposed.

“On failure by the CNSP to comply with the outcomes of the engagement with the committee, ECOWAS shall maintain all sanctions, including the use of force and shall request the African Union and all other partners to enforce the targeted sanctions on members of the CNSP and their associates.”

While commending the efforts of its Chairperson, President Tinubu, towards a peaceful resolution of the political crisis, the Authority said it “deeply deplores the continued detention of President Mohamed Bazoum, his family and associates by the CNSP administration.”

The bloc also criticised the “lack of commitment on the part of the CNSP to restore constitutional order.”

Consequently, it called on the junta to “release President Mohamed Bazoum, his family and associates immediately and without condition.”

Sunday’s resolutions follow the earlier decisions made during Extraordinary Summits on July 30, 2023, and August 10, 2023.

In the fight against terrorism and other related security issues, the Authority asserted its commitment to eradicating extremism and other threats to the region’s peace, security and stability.

Consequently, the Authority instructed the Commission to urgently “resume efforts to activate the ECOWAS standby force in its kinetic mode for counterterrorism operations in zones infested by terrorist groups.”

It also instructed the Commission to expedite the convening of the meeting of ministers of finance and defense to agree on the modalities for the “mobilisation of internal financial, human and material resources on a mandatory basis for support the deployment of the regional counterterrorism force.”

In this regard, it acknowledged the commencement of assignment by its special envoy of counterterrorism, Baba Kamara, and directed the Commission to “facilitate his mission.”

The Authority also urged member states to increase funding for joint maritime operations and exercises in the region and to improve coordination and collaboration among various ministries, departments, and agencies responsible for maritime security.

On the transition process in Burkina Faso, Guinea and Mali, the ECOWAS authority welcomed the successful national referendum in Mali. It commended the transition authorities for the efforts they have deployed.

However, it frowned at the “reluctance” of the transition authorities to “cooperate with ECOWAS in the implementation of transition programmes and other activities of interest to the region.”

It also lamented the unilateral decisions taken on the implementation of the transitional programmess agreed with ECOWAS, requesting the Troika, under the leadership of President Talon of the Republic of Benin, to “urgently undertake visits of Burkina Faso, the Republic of Guinea and Mali,” to re-engage the three countries in the inclusive implementation of the transition programme.

The Authority also directed member-states to exempt the transition presidents, prime ministers and foreign ministers of states in transition from the travel ban and other targeted individual sanctions imposed on the three member-states.

This was as it urged Mali to cooperate with countries contributing troops to the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali to safely remove contingent-owned equipment from Mali before the deadline.

The ECOWAS Authority also condemned the coup attempt of November 26, 2023, that led to the loss of lives and destruction of property.

It urged the judiciary to conduct “a thorough and transparent investigation into the event, with a view to identifying and bringing in the perpetrators to justice.”

(Punch)

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Don’t intervene in Liberia poll, Jega cautions ECOWAS observers

A former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission and Head of the Economic Community of West African States Observers Mission in Liberia, Prof Attahiru Jega, has urged political actors and stakeholders involved in the Liberian presidential run-off slated for Tuesday, November 14, to be guided by the rule of law and fair play.

He also advised observers not to interfere with the process.

A statement by the ECOWAS mission on Sunday said, “On Friday, November 10, 2023, Prof Jega met successively with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Liberia, Mr Frank Musa Dean Jr; President of the National Electoral Commission, Mrs Davidetta Browne-Lansanah; some civil society actors and the ECOWAS Technical Team.

“In his meetings with these actors, Jega discussed the preparation towards the polls and challenges for a peaceful, free, transparent and credible electoral process.”

The statement noted that the former INEC chair also met with several top ECOWAS officials.

While addressing ECOWAS observers, Jega was quoted as urging “them to carry out their tasks within the confines of the extant electoral legal frameworks and in accordance with international standards.

“He also urged them to avoid interfering in the electoral process and to use the skills and tools acquired through their training. Finally, he asked them to make possible recommendations to improve the electoral process and the ECOWAS Election Observation Mission.”

The statement also noted that the ECOWAS Resident Representative in Liberia, Josephine Nkrumah, briefed the observers on the conditions under which “the polls will be held”.

The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security of ECOWAS, Abdel-Fatau Musah, expressed satisfaction with the profile of the observers while charging them to remain objective in their observation of the exercise.

(Punch)

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Israel-Hamas war: UN seeks $1.2bn aid for Gaza, 9,200 killed

Israel has sent thousands of Palestinians back to besieged Gaza on Friday, pursuing a crackdown on workers and labourers from the territory who had previously been given permits to take jobs in Israel and the occupied West Bank, Saturday PUNCH has learnt.

Large numbers of workers returned through the Kerem Shalom, crossing east of the Rafah crossing between Egypt and the Gaza Strip, which has been pounded by Israeli jets and tanks for weeks since the Oct. 7 attack on southwestern Israel by gunmen of the territory’s ruling Hamas group, reports Reuters.

Israel has since bombed the coastal Palestinian enclave nonstop and launched a ground offensive, killing more than 9,200 Palestinians, almost half of whom are children, according to Gaza health authorities.

United Nations officials say more than 1.4 m of Gaza’s population of about 2.3 m have been displaced.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has launched an emergency aid appeal seeking $1.2 bn to help some 2.7 m people in Gaza and the West Bank.

“The cost of meeting the needs of 2.7 million people — that is the entire population of Gaza and 500,000 people in the occupied West Bank — is estimated to be $1.2 billion,” the UN agency said on Friday.

Fighting was triggered by Hamas’ bloody raids on October 7, which Israeli officials say killed more than 1,400 people.

(Punch)

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Coup: Africa needs to rejig its democracy, says Jonathan

Former President Goodluck Jonathan has said that the current spate of coups across the African continent shows that democracy needs to be ”rejigged” and put in a proper direction.

Jonathan made this known during a Democracy Dialogue 2023 organised by the Goodluck Jonathan Foundation (GJF) with the theme: “Breaking New Grounds In The Democracy Development Nexus in Africa” in Yenagoa.

The former Nigerian leader expressed worry that in recent years, democracy in the African continent has caused serious crises, including the challenges of poverty and unemployment, which he said had created a crisis of trust in the hearts of the citizens.

”Leadership is supposed to work to ensure that democracy is translated to economic well-being,” he said, explaining that democracy should be able to encourage development.

”Recently, we have experienced jubilations heralding the overthrow of civilian administrations in Africa, people jubilating military overthrowing civil administrations. Such victory songs will not last long, but it shows that Africa needs to rejig her democracy.

“In recent years, democracy in the continent has caused a serious crisis. The challenges of poverty and unemployment have created a crisis of trust in the hearts of our citizens.

“As leaders, we have the responsibility to ensure that democracy endures by adhering to the rules of law, respecting the rights of the people, strengthening public institutions, ensuring that we implement policies that will impact positively on the lives of our people,” he said.

(Daily Post)

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Kagame announces fourth term presidential bid in Rwanda

Rwanda’s president Paul Kagame declared he will run for a fourth term next year, saying that “what the West thinks is not my problem,” after the United States and others criticized the earlier lifting of term limits to extend his rule.

Kagame made the announcement in an interview with the French-language publication Jeune Afrique published Tuesday.

The 65-year-old Kagame has been president since 2000 and was declared the winner of the previous election in 2017 with more than 98% of the vote. He has been the de facto leader since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

He is one of a number of African leaders who have prolonged their rule by pursuing changes to term limits. In 2015, Rwandans in a referendum voted to lift a two-term limit. Kagame could stay in power until 2034 if he wins a five-year term next year and then another.

When asked what he thought the West would think of him running again, he replied, “I’m sorry for the West, but what the West thinks is not my problem.”

Kagame was re-elected as chair of the ruling Rwandan Patriotic Front party earlier this year for another five-year term. The U.S.-based watchdog Freedom House described Rwanda as “not free” in its latest report and said the party has been “banning and repressing any opposition group that could mount a serious challenge to its leadership.”

Political analyst Gonzaga Muganwa, a former executive secretary of the Rwanda Journalists Association, said Kagame’s control over the party is total and that “All the legal political parties in the country are subservient to his authority.”

“Rwandans expect him to be around until at least 2034 unless a major upheaval happens. In the leadup to the polls, his biggest challenge is managing the cost-of-living crisis as food inflation is wiping away any rise in incomes” since the COVID-19 pandemic, Muganwa said.

Kagame and his government have received praise for stabilizing the country and developing public health and the economy since the genocide in which more than 800,000 people were killed. But human rights groups and other critics have long accused the government of harshly targeting opponents, including with extrajudicial killings even far outside the country’s borders.

The government has rejected such allegations. But earlier this year, under diplomatic pressure, Rwanda released Paul Rusesabagina, who had inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” after tricking onto a plane to the country and convicted of terror offenses in a widely criticized trial.

The other candidate who has declared he will run for president is lawmaker Frank Habineza with the Green Democratic party, who received 0.45% of the votes in 2017.

Habineza told The Associated Press his party was not surprised by Kagame’s announcement and will continue to fight for democracy.

“As we speak now, there is a high level of poverty and people have no food and youth have no jobs. This is what bothers Rwandans,” he said.

Some Kagame supporters believe he needs more time. William Harerimana, a 53-year-old businessman, said “we need to be patient a bit more and under him, the country will register more economic growth and benefit all Rwandans.”

(AP)

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They’ve held our ambassador hostage in Niger Republic – French President, Macron

France’s ambassador in Niger is being held hostage at the French embassy by the military junta which has seized power in the West African nation, President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday.

“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic members which are being literally held hostage at the French embassy, and food is prevented from being delivered. They’re eating military rations,” Macron told reporters during a visit to Burgundy.

It had earlier been reported that the coup leaders had ordered the ambassador to leave the country, but the envoy reportedly defied the directive.

Several Nigeriens had taken their protest to the French embassy, calling on its occupiers to leave the West African country following their criticism of the military coup that toppled civilian government.

More details to follow….

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Niger junta cancels 1,000 diplomatic passports linked to ousted regime

The new military rulers in Niger Republic have cancelled more than 990 diplomatic passports held by nationals and foreigners linked to the ousted regime.

The foreign ministry has written to notify diplomatic representations in Niger that the passports are now “lapsed”, according to copies of the letter posted on social media networks.

The diplomatic documents were held by former senior figures in institutions and ministries as well as ex-MPs and advisers including the president and prime minister, the official press agency ANP said late Thursday.

About 50 of the passports had been given to American, British, French, Libyan and Turkish individuals as well as other West Africans.

President Mohamed Bazoum was overthrown on July 26 and has since been detained at his residence.

At the end of August, the new regime cancelled passports held by several members of the government who were abroad, including the prime minister, foreign minister and Niger’s ambassador to France.

(AFP)

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UN seeks $71m for Libya flood victims

The United Nations is urgently seeking more than $71 million to assist those most in need after deadly flash floods swept Libya over the weekend.

Hurricane-strength Storm Daniel slammed into Libya on September 10, killing at least 4,000 people, with thousands more still missing.

In a flash appeal Thursday, the United Nations Humanitarian Agency (Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) said it expects the toll to rise.

The city of Derna, one of the hardest-hit locations, was reduced to a wasteland after two upstream dams burst Sunday.

OCHA said estimates suggest 30 percent of the city may have disappeared and with most roads collapsed local authorities are calling for a sea corridor to be established for relief and evacuations.

The entire seaside town of Sousse meanwhile remains submerged.

Calling the situation “catastrophic”, OCHA said its humanitarian partners need $71.4 million to respond to the “most urgent needs of 250,000 people targeted out of the 884,000 people estimated to be in need”.

On Wednesday, UN OCHA head Martin Griffiths had announced an immediate emergency fund of $10 million.

“Entire neighbourhoods have been wiped off the map. Whole families, taken by surprise, were swept away in the deluge of water,” he said in a statement.

“Getting lifesaving supplies to people, prevent a secondary health crisis, and swiftly restore some kind of normality must override any other concern at this difficult time for Libya.”

The United States, European Union, Turkey, United Arab Emirates and several other countries have also already sent or pledged aid, while foreign rescue teams have been deployed to search for survivors and recover bodies.

(AFP)

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UNGA78: UN chief charges world leaders on solutions to global challenges

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has urged world leaders attending the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) to come up with solutions to global challenges.

Guterres made the call at a news conference on Wednesday in New York, ahead of the gathering of 193 Member States for the UN General Assembly High Level Week starting on Monday, Sept 18.

“This is not a time for posturing or positioning.

“Action is what the world needs,” he said.

He defined the gathering as “one of a kind moment” to both assess the state of world affairs but also “act for the common good.”

“This is not a time for indifference or indecision. This is a time to come together for real, practical solutions.

“It is time for compromise for a better tomorrow. Politics is compromise. Diplomacy is compromise. Effective leadership is compromise.”

He reflected on the thousands of deaths in Morocco and Libya in recent days.

“The United Nations is mobilising to support relief efforts. We will work in any and every way we can with partners to help get emergency assistance to those who so desperately need it,” the secretary-general said.

Fresh from key international summits in Nairobi, Jakarta and New Delhi – plus a visit to Havana on Thursday to meet leaders of the G77 group plus China, he said UNGA78 was convening for high level meetings amidst huge challenges.

He cited the intensifying climate emergency, new conflicts, the cost of living, and soaring inequality.

“People are looking to their leaders for a way out of this mess. Yet in the face of all this and more, geopolitical divisions are undermining our capacity to respond.

“A multipolar world is emerging. Multipolarity can be a factor of equilibrium, but it can also lead to escalating tensions, fragmentation and worse,” Guterres said.

“To cement this new and complex world order, there need to be strong and reformed institutions based around the UN Charter and international law.

“I know reform is fundamentally about power – and there are many competing interests and agendas in our increasingly multipolar world.”

He laid out the stall for next week’s key summits, on climate, investment for development, health challenges and specific regional crises.

Next week begins with a two-day meeting on how best to “rescue” the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed in Paris eight years ago, on the road to the ambitious 2030 deadline.

The UN chief, however, reiterated his appeal to those Heads of State and Government bound for New York.

“If we want a future of peace and prosperity based on equity and solidarity, leaders have a special responsibility to achieve compromise in designing our common future for our common good.

“Next week in New York is the place to start,” he said.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the 78th session of the UN General Assembly opened on Sept. 6 with the inauguration of a new President, Dennis Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, who will take on the mantle for the next 12 months.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu will address the Assembly on Sept. 19.

(Daily Post)

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