Friday, September 22

The coup leaders in Niger have announced their intention to prosecute former President Mohamed Bazoum for “high treason” charges.

The military junta that took over Niger has declared its intention to prosecute deposed President Mohamed Bazoum for “high treason” and subversing state security, following their unwavering statement of openness to dialogue with foreign nations in the region.

Niger’s penal code states that Bazoum could be sentenced to death if found guilty.

The military regime, as per Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane, a junta spokesperson, had collected the necessary evidence to bring the ousted president and his local and foreign associates before competent national and international authorities, according to an interview on state television.

The announcement made on Sunday night revealed that Bazoum was facing charges after interacting with high-ranking West African politicians and their international mentors post-coup. The leaders of the uprising accuse them of making false accusations and trying to hinder a peaceful transition to justify military intervention.

The announcement did not mention which foreign countries were mentioned and provided no date for the trial of Niger’s democratically elected president.

On the streets of the capital on Monday, some residents expressed their belief that Bazoum is guilty. Assan Zakite, a Niamey resident, stated that high treason was justified because the perpetrator stole all of Niger’s resources and betrayed Nigerian values.

Niger, a poor country of around 25 million people, was considered one of the last countries in the Sahel region of Africa to work with Western nations to combat jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. Prior to the recent coup, Europe and America had invested hundreds of millions of dollars in supporting Nigerian military personnel.

Bazoum was removed from the presidential compound in Niamey on July 26 by members of the guard. He has been confined to his home with his wife and son since then.

The junta has been under international pressure to release and reinstate Bazoum. ECOWAS gave the regime seven days to restore him to power and warned of military action in the absence of a successful coup.

The junta’s charges against Bazoum were denounced by ECOWAS on Monday, with the charge being labeled as provocative and in conflict with their stated aim to restore constitutional order through peaceful means.

The deployment of a “standby” force by ECOWAS in Niger was ordered last week, but its entry is uncertain. The African Union Peace and Security Council is currently meeting on Monday to discuss the crisis and has the ability to override the West African bloc’s decision if it believes such an intervention could jeopardize the peace and security situation on the continent.

The president and his political party were informed by close associates that the first family had lost electricity and water, and were left without food. The junta denied these reports and accused West African politicians and international organizations of conducting a disinformation campaign to undermine the authority of the governing body.

The fact that the justice minister who was recently appointed to the junta is now the ex-president of the military tribunal has led rights groups to fear that Bazoum won’t be given a fair trial.

He is not a person we trust, and he cannot be the embodiment of ideal freedom and free justice,” said Ali Idrissa, executive secretary of the Network of Organizations for Transparency and Analysis of Budgets.

The junta appointed a 21-person Cabinet last week that included civilian and military personnel, but the situation in Niger remained murky due to the uncertainty and mixed messages of those who claim to be leading the country.

Before the military charged Bazoum with treason, a communication team member of the junta informed journalists on Sunday evening that the regime had agreed to talks with neighboring Nigeria regarding ECOWAS. A delegation of Islamic scholars who had met with the government over the weekend also expressed their willingness to engage in dialogue.

ECOWAS’s previous attempts to communicate with the junta were unsuccessful due to restrictions on visiting Niger, and the military regime’d willingness to participate may indicate the impact of economic and travel sanctions imposed by West African leaders after Bazoum’ collapse, but this does not guarantee that negotiations will succeed.

Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department official who specialized in African affairs and is now director of Strategic Stabilization Advisors, stated that the junta’s interest in negotiations may be to their advantage.

There is also ongoing discussions about a possible military operation outside Niger.

An Aug. 11 memo obtained by The Associated Press revealed that Senegal’s security forces had ordered a “regroupment” from bases in the country as part of its contribution to the ECOWAS mission in Niger, but it was unclear what this meant.

The junta has established its authority in recent weeks, selecting an alternate government and exploiting anti-French sentiment against the previous colonial leader to gather backing from the populace, creating a hostile environment for non-native citizens and foreign journalists.

The Press House, an independent Nilerien organization that safeguards journalists, reported on Sunday that media representatives from both countries were being intimidated and threatened by Nigerien activists who support the junta. The organization expressed serious concern about the challenging conditions under which reporters were operating.

The coup leaders initially blamed the jihadi violence that led to the removal of Bazoum for the military takeover, but it has not been undone. A security report for aid groups revealed that fighters on motorcycles and believed to be with the Islamic State group ambushed Nigerien security forces on Sunday.

According to journalist and senior research fellow at the Soufan Center, Wassim Nasr, the attack and another claimed by JNIM, an al-Qaida linked group, are largely a result of military operations to combat extremist violence being suspended since the coup.

Nasr attributed the reason for this to the military’s focus on consolidating their coup in Niamey, and also noted that communications and dialogue efforts with certain jihadi groups established under Bazoum were cut off after the coup.

Boubacar Moussa, a former jihadi, informed the AP that he has been called by several active dicks who express gratitude for the chaos caused by the coup and the increased freedom of movement provided by their uprising.

As part of a nationwide initiative to encourage jihadi fighters to defect and rejoin the community, Moussa is optimistic that the military regime will eventually allow new attacks.


This report was aided by Lorian Belanger, Jean-Fernand Koena, and Chinedu Asadu, all of whom were writers for the Associated Press.

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