Niger junta says it will not back down despite ‘inhumane’ sanctions

The self-declared new leader of Niger on Wednesday said the junta would not bow to pressure to reinstate ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, intensifying a standoff with the West African bloc which has threatened to intervene after last week’s coup.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Niger and said it could authorize the use of force if the coup leaders do not restore Bazoum’s presidency within a week from last Sunday.

The bloc also sent a delegation to Niger on Wednesday to negotiate with the military officers who seized power, hoping to find a diplomatic solution before they have to decide whether or not to intervene.

In a televised address, Abdourahamane Tiani said the junta “rejects these sanctions altogether and refuses to give into any threats, wherever they come from. We refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Niger.”

ECOWAS has struggled to contain a democratic backslide in West Africa and had vowed that coups will no longer be tolerated after military takeovers in member states Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea and an attempted coup in Guinea-Bissau in the last two years.

“The military option is the very last option on the table, the last resort, but we have to prepare for the eventuality,” said ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace, and Security, Abdel-Fatau Musah.

“There is a need to demonstrate that we cannot only bark but can bite,” he told reporters earlier on Wednesday, as regional defense chiefs started a two-day meeting in the Nigerian capital Abuja.

Nigeria cut power supplies to Niger, a Niger state utility document showed on Wednesday, while truckers in Niamey were stranded by border closures – early signs of fallout from the bloc’s sweeping sanctions that Tiani described as “illegal, unjust, and inhumane.”

Tiani, the former Head of Bazoum’s Presidential Guard, shut Bazoum in his palace last Wednesday and later declared himself head of state.

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