ABUJA: African leaders on Sunday gave the junta in Niger one week to cede power or face the possible use of force, and slapped financial sanctions on the putschists, after the latest coup in the jihadist-plagued Sahel region raised alarm on the continent and in the West.

In the third coup in as many years to fell a leader in the Sahel, Niger’s elected president and Western ally, Mohamed Bazoum, has been held by the military since Wednesday.

General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of the powerful presidential guard, has declared himself leader.

Bazoum is one of a dwindling group of elected presidents and pro-Western leaders in the Sahel, where since 2020 a jihadist insurgency has triggered coups in Mali and Burkina Faso.

Former colonial ruler France and the European Union have suspended security cooperation and financial aid to Niger following the coup, while the United States warned that its aid could also be at stake.

At an emergency summit in Nigeria, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc demanded Bazoum be reinstated, within a week.

Otherwise, the bloc said it would take “all measures” to restore constitutional order.

“Such measures may include the use of force for this effect,” it said in a statement, adding that ECOWAS defence chiefs were to meet on Sunday.

It was not immediately clear how ECOWAS could use force. Last year, the bloc agreed to create a regional security force to intervene against jihadists and prevent military coups, but details on the force and its funding were still unclear.

The bloc also slapped financial sanctions on the junta leaders and on the country, freezing “all commercial and financial transactions” between member states and Niger, one of the world’s poorest nations, often ranking last on the UN’s Human Development Index. In a statement read out on national television on Saturday evening, Niger junta member Amadou Abdramane said the summit’s aim was to “approve a plan of aggression against Niger, in the form of an imminent military intervention in Niamey”. The intervention would be “in cooperation with African countries who are not members of the regional body and certain Western nations”, he added.


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