Niger Coup: ECOWAS must restore the government of President Mohamed Bazoum

The Media Foundation for West Africa (MFWA) condemns the July 26, 2023 overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum of Niger by the army and joins the ECOWAS and other organisations across the world to demand an immediate return to constitutional order.

A group of ten army officers led by Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane announced on Nigerien state television in the early hours of Wednesday, July 26, 2023, that the defence and security forces have seized power, citing “the continuing deterioration of the security situation, and poor economic and social governance.”

Being among the highest-ranking officers in the military, the coup leaders cannot shirk responsibility for the security situation in Niger. Neither are they clothed with the mandate or expertise to manage the economic and social governance of the country.

The people of Niger duly exercised their constitutional right and elected President Mohamed Bozoum on February 21, 2021, and their sovereign choice must be respected by all, including the military. Besides showing a reckless disregard for the progress and well-being of the people of Niger, the coup is a flagrant violation of Niger’s constitution and the ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance which states that “every accession to power must be made through free, fair and transparent elections.” The MFWA, therefore, calls for an immediate restoration of the elected government of Niger and urges the ECOWAS to use every legitimate means to realise this.

When President Bazoum took office in 2021, it was the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Consequently, it was hailed as the beginning of a new era of democratic stability after years of military coups. The international community must ensure that this new era of stability is sustained.

Military interventions in African countries in the past only succeeded in breeding instability, economic stagnation, gross human rights abuses and restriction of the civic space. The junta have already signalled their repressive intent by closing Niger’s land and air borders and suspending indefinitely the activities of all political parties. The security forces also violated citizens’ right to protest by violently dispersing supporters of President Bazoum who marched to the presidential palace to denounce the coup.

This coup will likely weaken the national will and resolve in the fight against the nearly two-decades-old terrorist violence in parts of the country. It threatens to reverse democratic gains made by Niger and undermine the efforts of civil society organisations like the MFWA to consolidate good governance in the country.

Among the many interventions the MFWA has made to promote transparent and accountable governance is the convening in Niamey of a Public Forum on Access to Information on August 10, 2021. The meeting, organised in collaboration with our local partners ONIMED, also saw the launch of a manual for journalists on Access to Information and a training workshop that enhanced journalists’ skills and knowledge around Niger’s ATI law and how to use it to develop compelling stories.

The MFWA considers the coup as a frontal attack on democracy and an act of defiance against the sovereign people of Niger.  We deplore the prospect of systemic violation of human rights under an illegitimate authoritarian military regime. Consequently, we urge the African Union. The United Nations Security Council and, in particular, ECOWAS to combine efforts to ensure that this illegal and outrageous usurpation of power in Niger is reversed.

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