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W-Africa military chiefs to discuss Niger crisis this week

Military chiefs from the West African bloc, ECOWAS, will meet in Ghana this week to discuss possible intervention in Niger, military and political sources in the region said yesterday.

This came on a day human rights activists in Niger said they had been unable to gain access to top political officials who were detained after the coup nearly three weeks ago.

This is even as US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken said there was still space for diplomacy to reverse the coup in Niger and lauded President Bola Tinubu for his leadership on the crisis in Niger.

The meeting on Thursday and Friday, originally scheduled for last weekend but postponed, came after ECOWAS leaders last week approved deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger, which president was toppled on July 26.

Their summit, held in the Nigerian capital Abuja last Thursday, also reaffirmed the bloc’s preference for a diplomatic outcome.

Also yesterday, human rights activists in Niger said they have been unable to gain access to top political officials who were detained after mutinous soldiers ousted the African country’s democratically elected president nearly three weeks ago.

The military officers, who carried out the coup against President Mohamed Bazoum, also arrested several former government ministers and other political leaders, according to Ali Idrissa, executive secretary of the Network of Organizations for Transparency and Analysis of Budgets, a local human rights group.

The group said requests to see them and check on their well-being had gone unanswered.

The junta that seized power has held Bazoum, his wife and son under house arrest in their compound in the capital since July 26, saying it planned to prosecute Bazoum for “high treason” and undermining state security, crimes that are eligible for the death penalty in Niger.

In a similar development, President Bola Tinubu yesterday praised the solidarity of the Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS, on the political impasse in Republic of Niger.

The President spoke when he received the Special Envoy of President Ali Bongo Ondimba and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Gabon, Mr. Hermann Immongault, at State House in Abuja.

Tiinubu said the special message of support and solidarity from President Bongo, who doubles as the Chairman of ECCAS, expressing the full support of ECOWAS resolutions on the unconstitutional takeover of government in Niger, proved once more that military interference in democratic governance was not acceptable anywhere, and certainly, no longer so on the African continent.

“I appreciate the solidarity and support of President Bongo on the situation in Niger. We are working not to compound the problem. We have well-meaning people who have intervened. I understand the fear of our people on any form of military action.

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