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African Union Suspends Niger Over Coup, Plans Sanctions On Military Junta

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Niger is facing more and more isolation from the region. The African Union (AU) has cut itself totally away from Niger by not including the West African nation in its activities after the nation’s military junta declared a coup in July. The AU also warned its members against legitimising the junta.

The move comes as both the Western allies and democratic African states have shown concerns that the coup might give active Islamist groups power to spread wide in the Sahel region and at the same time offer Russia safe space to expand its influence.

ECOWAS mediator Abdulsalami Abubakar, a former Nigerian military commander, said on Tuesday that his weekend visit to Niger had been “very fruitful” and that he was optimistic about a peaceful conclusion. This was a rare sign of progress.

Abubakar talked about the mission with Nigerian President Bola Tinubu in Abuja. After the briefing, he told the reporters that “Nobody wants to go to war. We started talking. They (the junta) have made their own points. We’ll get somewhere hopefully.” However, he did not divulge much details.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the AU Peace and Security Council noted ECOWAS’s intention to activate a standby force and requested the AU Commission to determine the financial, social, and security ramifications of doing so.

The AU Council also asked its Commission to note the number of members of the junta and their allies for focusing sanctions on them along with “the application of individual punitive measures”. The AU adopted the resolution on Tuesday in its statement at a council meeting held on Aug. 14, it said. The Union also supported the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS on Niger’s military junta.

The African Union reaffirmed its demands that the coup leaders release elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held since the coup, right away and go back to their barracks. The junta has defied calls for it to resign and on Saturday put up a three-year schedule for holding elections, which ECOWAS rejected.

To demonstrate that they meant it when they said that coups would no longer be tolerated in the area, regional leaders have adopted a tough stance on Niger.

Ali Ndume, a representative from Nigeria, said, “Our stand is informed by the grave implications of a military intervention in Niger. (There is) no alternative to a diplomatic solution.” His statement in Abuja came after a parliamentary meeting over the matter was held on Monday night.

The AU stated that it vehemently opposes any outside intervention in the situation from any actor or nation outside of Africa, including engagements by private military firms – a possible allusion to the Russian mercenary company Wagner, which operates in the nearby Mali.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, has praised the takeover and on Monday he broadcast a video appearing to be in Africa extolling Wagner’s work there.

Wu Peng, China’s top African ambassador, told reporters on Tuesday that only Africans could find solutions to African challenges.

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