African Union gives Niger rebels 15-day ultimatum

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If General Omar Tchiani and his men do not yield, the AU has threatened to impose what it has called “extreme sanctions” on the African nation.

The African Union has issued a 15-day ultimatum to the junta in Niger to reinstall the country’s democratically elected government just as the coup leaders met with senior civil servants to discuss how they would run the country and as the United States and the European Union threatened sanctions against the regime.

After its meeting on Friday, the African Union Peace and Security Council said it was concerned by the “alarming resurgence” of coups that undermine democracy and stability on the continent. It asked the soldiers to “return immediately and unconditionally to their barracks and restore constitutional authority, within a maximum of fifteen (15) days.”

Bazoum, whose condition and that of his officials remain unknown since the government was overthrown, should also be released immediately and unconditionally, the AU said. Failure to do so would compel the bloc to take “necessary action, including punitive measures against the perpetrators.”

On the streets of the Nigerien capital Niamey on Saturday, things appeared to be returning to normal, though many in the international community were still on lockdown with hotels full of foreigners, many given instructions not to leave.

Could a former president be behind the coup?

General Abdourahmane ‘Omar’ Tchiani, the junta leader and commander of Niger’s presidential guard, is close to former Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou, who stepped down in 2021 after a decade in office. Tchiani’s takeover of power will reinforce speculation that Issoufou is behind the coup, said Ulf Laessing, head of the Sahel program at the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, a German think tank and consultancy.

The US threatened to halt its economic support to Niger while the European Union announced the immediate indefinite suspension of budgetary support and security assistance.

Insurgencies increasing hardship in the region

While there are no signs of the junta backing down amid growing international pressure, analysts called for synergy in the interventions of the international community and continental organizations such as the AU and the regional bloc of ECOWAS, which is scheduled to meet over the coup on Sunday.

A successful coup in Niger and the sanctions in the aftermath could cause more hardship for millions of poor and hungry people in West Africa and could further threaten international relations with the region, which is seeing a resurgence of coups in recent years, according to Idayat Hassan, senior Africa program fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

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