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Niger junta names government, West African leaders to discuss next steps By Reuters


© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: General view as supporters of Niger’s coup leaders take part in a rally at a stadium in Niamey, Niger, August 6, 2023. REUTERS/Mahamadou Hamidou NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES/File Photo

By Boureima Balima and Abdel-Kader Mazou

NIAMEY/ABUJA (Reuters) -Niger’s junta named a new government overnight, forcing its agenda before a summit on Thursday of regional leaders who have demanded that they end their military takeover.

West African heads of state meeting in Nigeria later on Thursday aim to agree on a plan of action for Niger, where coup leaders have refused to stand down despite the bloc’s threat that it could use force to restore democracy.

Since the July 26 power grab shocked the region, the defiant junta has rebuffed diplomatic overtures and ignored an Aug. 6 deadline from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to reinstate ousted president Mohamed Bazoum.

Mahamane Roufai Laouali, cited as “Secretary General of the Government”, read out 21 names on television without specifying any further plans. Three coup leaders have been named ministers of defence, interior and sports in the government, which is about half the size of the previous one.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced concern about Bazoum and his family after his party reported that they were being detained at the presidential residence without electricity or running water, and had gone days without fresh food.

“The Secretary-General… once again calls for his immediate, unconditional release and his reinstatement as Head of State,” a U.N. spokesperson said on Wednesday.

The meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, could prove a pivotal moment in the standoff. The bloc’s leaders are expected to agree on next steps, which could include military intervention – something an ECOWAS official has said would be a last resort.

Envoys of the Nigerian president, and ECOWAS chair, Bola Tinubu met coup leaders in the capital, Niamey, on Wednesday, offering a glimmer of hope for dialogue after previous missions were spurned.

Any escalation would further destabilise West Africa’s Sahel region, one of the world’ poorest, where a long-running Islamist insurgency has displaced millions and stoked a hunger crisis.

The coup was triggered by internal politics but it has evolved into an international entanglement, with ECOWAS, the United Nations and Western countries putting pressure on the junta to stand down, while military governments in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have vowed to defend it.



This story originally appeared on Investing

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