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Niger Military Coup ‘Giant Step Backwards’ For Democracy: Ecowas

FILE - With the headquarters of the ruling party burning in the back, supporters of mutinous soldiers demonstrate in Niamey, Niger, Thursday, July 27 2023.

WASHINGTON - Regional and international groups have thrown their support behind Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, ousted Wednesday in a military coup, and currently in detention in the presidential palace.

The Economic Community of West African States on Thursday joined the chorus of those calling for Bazoum’s reinstatement as the democratically elected president.

“We insist…that Bazoum remains the legitimate and legal president, and he must be reinstated as soon as possible,” Abdel Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs and security told VOA.

Describing the coup as “a giant step backwards on the path to democratic consolidation in the region,” Musah said the regional body will meet this weekend to discuss the way forward.

“The heads of state of the region will hold an extraordinary summit, and emergency summit, on the situation over the weekend to determine what measures to take to ensure the reinstatement of the democratically elected president,” Musah said.

Meantime, the United States also condemned the coup, and reiterated its support for Bazoum, who remains in detention following his ouster, announced on public TV. Addressing the press in Washington, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre called for Bazoum’s immediate reinstatement.

“We strongly support the democratically elected president there, and we condemn in the strongest terms any effort to cease power by force and disrupt the constitutional order. We call for the immediate release of the president and respect for the rule of law and public safety,” said Jean Pierre.

Niger is the latest West Africa country to experience a coup in the last four years, preceded by Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

Musah attributed this to several factors, including poor governance, climate change and an increase in terrorism, which he said has destabilized the region to the point where the military is taking advantage.

“You dare say that all the ingredients are there for instability, but that does not give them (the military) literally the license to overthrow democratically elected governments, because in the first place, the military’s first duty is to fight these terrorists, and not remove governments,” he said. “So if terrorism is spreading in the region, the military should take the lion’s share.”