NIAMEY, Aug 14 (AP): Niger’s mutinous soldiers say they will prosecute deposed President
Mohamed Bazoum for “high treason” and undermining state security, in an announcement hours
after the junta said they were open to dialogue with West African nations to resolve the mounting
If found guilty, Bazoum could face the death penalty, according to Niger’s penal code.
Spokesman Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane said on state television on Sunday night the military
regime had “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute before competent national and
international authorities the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason
and for undermining the internal and external security of Niger.”
The announcement gave no precise details on the allegations nor the circumstances or date of a
Niger’s democratically elected president; Bazoum was ousted by members of his presidential guard
on July 26 and has since been under house arrest with his wife and son in the presidential compound
in the capital, Niamey.
People close to the president as well as those in his ruling party say the family’s electricity and water
have been cut off and they’re running out of food.
The junta dismissed these reports on Sunday night and accused West African politicians and
international partners of fuelling a disinformation campaign to discredit the junta.
International pressure is growing on the junta to release and reinstate Bazoum. Immediately after
the coup, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS gave the regime seven days to return him to
power or threatened military force, but that deadline came and went with no action from either
Last week, ECOWAS ordered the deployment of a “standby” force, but it’s still unclear when or if it
would enter the country.
The African Union Peace and Security Council is meeting on Monday to discuss Niger’s crisis and
could overrule the decision if it felt that wider peace and security on the continent was threatened
by an intervention.
But as time drags on there’s growing uncertainty as mixed messages mount.
On Sunday evening, before the military accused Bazoum of treason, a member of the junta’s
communication team told journalists that the regime had approved talks with ECOWAS, which would
take place in the coming days. That same day a mediation team of Islamic scholars from
neighbouring Nigeria who had met with the junta on the weekend, said the regime was open to
dialogue with ECOWAS.
Previous attempts by ECOWAS to speak with the junta have floundered, with its delegations being
barred from entering the country.
The newfound openness to talks could be a result of ECOWAS pressure, including severe economic
and travel sanctions, which are already taking a toll on the impoverished country’s some 25 million
people, but it doesn’t mean they’ll go anywhere, say Sahel experts.
‘Let’s see what these negotiations actually look like, because it’s also in the junta’s benefit to in the
least entertain talks, that doesn’t mean they’ll be serious about them,” said Aneliese Bernard, a
former US State Department official who specialized in African affairs and is now director of
Strategic Stabilization Advisors, a risk advisory group.
But while talk of dialogue ensues, so is military mobilization.
In a memo by Senegal’s security forces dated August 11, seen by The Associated Press, it ordered
troops to start moving from bases in Senegal on Monday as part of its contribution to the ECOWAS
mission in Niger. It was unclear how many troops would move or where they were going.
In the weeks since the coup, the junta has entrenched itself in power, appointing a new government
and leveraging anti-French sentiment against its former colonial ruler to shore up support among
the population, creating a tense environment for locals who oppose the junta as well as many
foreigners and journalists.
In a statement Sunday, the board of directors for the Press House, an independent Nigerien
organisation that protects journalists, said local and international media were being threatened, and
intimidated by Nigerien activists who support the junta and was deeply concerned about the “very
difficult climate” they were operating in.
Since the coup, jihadi violence is also rising. Niger was seen by Western nations as one of the last
democratic countries in the Sahel region it could partner with to beat back growing jihadi violence
linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. France and the United States and other European
countries have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into propping up Niger’s military. Since the
coup, France and the United States have suspended military operations.
On Sunday, Nigerien security forces were ambushed by fighters believed to be with the Islamic State
group who attacked them on a dozen motorcycles, according to a security report for aid groups seen
This combined with another attack last week claimed by the al-Qaida linked group known as NJIM,
signify a new phase of the conflict where groups are trying to consolidate power and it’s largely a
consequence of the suspended military operations, said Wassim Nasr, a journalist and senior
research fellow at the Soufan Center, told The Associated Press.
“This is due to the halting of cooperation and the military being busy with consolidating their coup in
Niamey,” he said. It’s also a result of cutting communication and dialogue attempts with some jihadi
groups, which had been established under Bazoum, he said.
A former jihadi, Boubacar Moussa, told AP that since the coup he’s received multiple phone calls
from active jihadis saying they have been celebrating the chaos and greater freedom of movement
since the coup.
Moussa is part of a nationwide program that encourages jihadi fighters to defect and reintegrate
into society, however, it’s unclear if that program will continue under the military regime.
As the situation evolves he believes jihadis will take advantage of the security gap and launch new