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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Court dismisses Niger junta’s suit against Tinubu, ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West Africa Communities sitting in Abuja, on Thursday, dismissed the suit by the Niger Republic junta against the region’s Authority of Heads of State and Government.

The ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, led by Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu, had on August 8 imposed sanctions on the country following the junta’s failure to relinquish power to the civilian  President,  Mohamed Bazoum.

Displeased with the sanction,  the Niger junta approached the court arguing that the sanction had occasioned adverse effects on the Nigerien people, including a shortage of food, medicine, and electricity, due to the closure of borders and cut-off of electricity supply by Nigeria.

The junta asked the court to compel the Authority of Heads of State and Government to immediately suspend the sanctions.

Delivering judgment on the case,  Justice Edward Asante an entity that had not subjected itself to the control of ECOWAS could not approach the ECOWAS Court to seek reprieve.

The judge held, “An entity resulting from an unconstitutional change of government and not acknowledged by ECOWAS as a government of a member state cannot inherently initiate a case before the court to obtain benefits or reprieve.

“Consequently, the substantive suit and the request for interim measures presented in the name of Niger, by an unconstitutional and unrecognized governmental authority, were prima facie inadmissible.

“Having concluded that the substantive application before the court was prima facie inadmissible, the court held that the request for interim measures could not be granted. It accordingly dismissed it. “

Concerning the seven non-state applicants suing alongside the Republic of Niger, the ECOWAS Court held that they failed to provide specific details regarding the nature and extent of the harm suffered by each of them from the measures imposed on Niger.

He said,  “This lack of specificity made it challenging to differentiate their legal interests in this case from those of the Republic of Niger.

“Given these circumstances,  the application is prima facie inadmissible relative to the non-state applicants as per the provisions of Articles 9(2) and 10(c) of the Protocol of the Court,” the judge held.

(Punch)

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Military coup: ECOWAS parliament seeks review of sanctions against Niger Republic

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Parliament has urged the region’s heads of state and government to ease sanctions imposed on Niger Republic.

Last July, the ECOWAS Head of State imposed sanctions on the Niger Republic in response to the removal of President Mohamed Bazoum by a group of military personnel led by former Presidential Guard Commander General Abdourahamane Tchiani.

These sanctions included the suspension of all commercial transactions with Niger, the freezing of its state assets in the regional central bank, freezing state and state enterprises’ assets in commercial banks, and the suspension of financial assistance with regional development banks.

The ECOWAS sanctions also led to Nigeria cutting off power supply to the country on the 80-megawatt Birnin-Kebbi line, while Ivory Coast suspended imports and exports of Nigerien goods.

Senator Ali Ndume, Chief Whip of the Senate, told journalists following the opening session of the senate that sanctions have been imposed on seven states in Nigeria, seven of which border Niger Republic.

Ndume said: “Children and women have been exposed to untold hardship. No meaningful progress has been made in resolving this issue. We are appealing to ECOWAS states to lift the sanction and open the closed border between Niger and Nigeria because it is the poor that are suffering. Let me say this is a collective decision by concerned citizens.

“This Press conference is simply an appeal to the ECOWAS Heads of State to consider the humanitarian situation and resolve the political impasse in Niger.”

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Israel-Hamas: Arab nations condemn Gaza killings, call for ICC probe

The Joint Arab Islamic Extraordinary Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has demanded a ceasefire in the ongoing Israeli-Hamas war.

This is as the United Nations Population Fund, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the World Health Organisation called for urgent international action to end the ongoing attacks on hospitals in Gaza.

At the summit concluded on Saturday, attended by world leaders of states and governments of Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the League of the Arab States, the Arab nations condemned Israel’s military operation in Gaza.

“We reaffirm that a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, which is a strategic option, is the only way to establish security and stability for all peoples of the region and protect them from cycles of violence and wars. This, we stress, will not be achieved without ending the Israeli occupation and resolving the Palestinian cause on the basis of the two-state solution.

“We affirm that it is impossible to achieve regional peace while overlooking the Palestinian cause or attempting to ignore the rights of the Palestinian people. We stress that the Arab Peace Initiative, backed by the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, is an essential reference to this end,” part of the communique from the summit read.

While calling for the convening of an international peace conference through which a realistic peace would be launched, the summit “demanded a decisive and binding resolution by the United Nations Security Council that will impose a cessation of aggression and put an end to Israeli occupation practices that violate international law, international humanitarian law, and international legitimacy resolutions, the most recent of which is UNGA Resolution No. AES-101.25 dated 10/26/2013.”

These were contained in a statement signed by the media aide to the Minister of Information and National Orientation, Rabiu Ibrahim, on Sunday.

Backing a probe into war crimes, the leaders called on “the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to complete the investigation into war crimes and crimes against humanity” as they assigned the General Secretariats of the OIC and the Arab League to follow up on the implementation of the investigation.

The Arab and Islamic leaders further condemned some nations’ shipment of arms and ammunition to support the war which they noted had been used for the destruction of houses, hospitals, schools, mosques, churches, and other facilities.

On their part, UN agencies in a joint statement on Sunday revealed that attacks on healthcare facilities had led to 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers on duty.

The statement was signed by UNFPA Arab States Regional Director, Ms Laila Baker; UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Ms Adele Khodr; and WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean, Dr Ahmed Al-Mandhari.

“We are horrified at the latest reports of attacks on and in the vicinity of Al-Shifa Hospital, Al-Rantissi Naser Paediatric Hospital, Al-Quds Hospital, and others in Gaza city and northern Gaza, killing many, including children. Intense hostilities surrounding several hospitals in northern Gaza are preventing safe access for health staff, the injured, and other patients.

“Premature and new-born babies on life support are reportedly dying due to power, oxygen, and water cuts at Al-Shifa Hospital, while others are at risk. Staff across a number of hospitals are reporting lack of fuel, water and basic medical supplies, putting the lives of all patients at immediate risk.

“Over the past 36 days, WHO has recorded at least 137 attacks on health care in Gaza, resulting in 521 deaths and 686 injuries, including 16 deaths and 38 injuries of health workers on duty,” the statement read in part.

Fighting rages in Gaza following Hamas’s shock October 7 attack that triggered a furious response from Israel which has vowed to destroy the Islamist militant group.

About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Israel and almost 240 hostages were taken, according to Israeli officials.

In Gaza, more than 11,000 people, also mostly civilians, have been killed in the war, the health ministry in the Hamas-run Palestinian territory has said.

(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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