ECOWAS court orders reinstatement of Niger’s ousted president

Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum gives a statement before talks at the chancellery in Berlin, Germany, July 8, 2021. Bernd von Jutrczenka/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

The former president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been detained since a coup on July 26, must be released immediately, as ordered by the court of the West African bloc, ECOWAS, on Friday. The court, situated in Nigeria’s capital Abuja, has called for his “immediate and unconditional release” and mandated Bazoum’s reinstatement.

Niger is presently suspended from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) due to the coup orchestrated by the presidential guard that ousted Bazoum and placed him and his family in custody.

The court ruling stated that Mohamed Bazoum represents the state of Niger and remains the president of the republic. It cited violations of constitutional rights, as Bazoum has been confined to his presidential residence with his wife and son since the coup.

Niger’s military rulers have not yet responded to the court’s decision, and it is noted that some member states have previously disregarded ECOWAS court rulings.

In mid-September, Bazoum appealed to the ECOWAS Court of Justice for his release and the restoration of constitutional order. His legal team asserted that the court’s decisions are final and not subject to appeal.

One of Bazoum’s lawyers highlighted that the court, for the first time, condemned military authorities for violating ECOWAS constitutional principles through the coup. The lawyers urged ECOWAS and its member states to ensure the effective implementation of the court’s decision.

ECOWAS had earlier announced the suspension of Niger from all “decision-making bodies” until constitutional order is reinstated. Despite imposing significant economic and financial sanctions against Niger and interrupting trade, ECOWAS has resumed dialogue with the military regime.

Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey, mediating in Niamey, disclosed that details for the transition back to civilian rule had been agreed upon with Niger’s prime minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, appointed by the military regime. Dussey suggested that the content and timing of the transition would be presented to ECOWAS heads of state and the Commission.

Dussey, alongside his Sierra Leonean counterpart Timothy Kabba, plans to return to Niamey in January. An ECOWAS summit in Abuja allowed for a potential easing of sanctions against Niger, conditional on a “short transition” to civilian rule. A committee comprising Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leone will negotiate with the Nigerien military regime on steps required before sanctions are relaxed.

General Abdourahamane Tiani, the head of the military regime, previously stated that the transition’s duration would not exceed three years and would be determined through an inclusive national dialogue, a timeline rejected by ECOWAS for being too long.

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