By Spy Uganda Correspondent
International pressure is growing on Niger’s coup leaders, with the African Union (AU) demanding that the mutineers “return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority”, while other world leaders called for the release of detained President Mohamed Bazoum and the restoration of constitutional order.
The AU’s Peace and Security Council “demands the military personnel to immediately and unconditionally return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority, within a maximum period of fifteen (15) days”, the regional bloc said in a communique following an emergency meeting to discuss the mutiny.
It “condemns in the strongest terms possible” the overthrow of the elected government and its president Mohamed Bazoum, and expressed deep concern over the “alarming resurgence” of military coups in Africa.
This latest development comes in the wake of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken asking for the immediate release of Bazoum and the restoration of democratic order in the country.
Blinken also said a US economic and security partnership with Niger, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, depends on the continuation of the democratic governance and constitutional order, which has been disrupted in the last few days.
“So that assistance is in clear jeopardy as a result of these actions, which is another reason why they need to be immediately reversed,” said Blinken, who is meeting with counterparts in Australia.
Earlier, Blinken had offered Bazoum Washington’s “unflagging” support.
In a separate statement on Saturday, the European Union also said that it will not recognise Niger’s coup authorities, adding that Bazoum is still the president.
“The European Union does not recognise and will not recognise the authorities from the putsch in Niger,” the bloc’s chief diplomat Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“All cooperation in the security field is suspended indefinitely with immediate effect” in addition to the end to budgetary aid, he added.
Before the military’s attempt to grab power, Niger was seen as the West’s most stable ally in an unstable region.
Leaders of the coup had declared General Abdourahamane Tiani as head of state on Friday, saying they had ousted Bazoum in the seventh military takeover in West and Central Africa in less than three years.
Bazoum has not made a statement since Thursday morning when he vowed to protect “hard-won” democratic gains in a post on social media.
Blinken told journalists in Brisbane, Australia he had spoken to Bazoum by telephone, without providing further details.
‘Removed From Power’
Soldiers from the Presidential Guard detained President Bazoum since Wednesday and announced that they had removed him from power.
The Niger general who staged the coup on Friday declared himself the new leader of the West African nation and warned that any foreign military intervention would lead to chaos.
General Abdourahamane Tchiani, head of the Presidential Guard since 2011, appeared on state television, saying he was the “president of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland”.
The general, who is in his 50s and had previously kept out of public life, presented the coup as a response to “the degradation of the security situation” linked to attacks by armed groups.
He questioned “the sense and scope of a security approach to the fight against terrorism which excludes any real collaboration with Burkina Faso and Mali.”
The two neighbours of Niger are also facing similar threats from insurgents and have experienced military coups recently.
The putschists in Niger, who have faced international condemnation for taking power from a democratically elected president, also warned of “the consequences that will follow any foreign military intervention”.
The UN Security Council also said in a statement late on Friday that it “condemned the efforts to unconstitutionally change the legitimate government” in the country.
Meanwhile, West African leaders will meet on Sunday in the Nigerian capital Abuja to discuss the coup, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu said.
“ECOWAS and the international community would do everything to defend democracy and ensure democratic governance continues to take firm root in the region,” Tinubu, who is also the chairman of the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc, said in a statement.
Bazoum is said to be in good health and has been able to talk by telephone to other heads of state. But he has not been seen in public since soldiers blockaded his office on Wednesday.
He and his family have reportedly been confined to their residence at the presidential palace located within the 700-strong Presidential Guard’s military camp.