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🔴 Live: ECOWAS chairman says diplomacy is the ‘best way forward’ on Niger crisis

Nigerian President and current ECOWAS chair Bola Tinubu said on Tuesday that diplomacy is the ‘best way forward’ to resolve the crisis in coup-hit Niger. The statement came after the junta in Niamey said it could not host a mission from the West African bloc for security reasons. US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken earlier told FRANCE 24’s sister radio station RFI that diplomacy is the ‘preferred way’ to resolve the situation. Read our liveblog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).

A street vendor pushes his cart past burnt cars outside the headquarters of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum's Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism in Niamey on August 7, 2023.
A street vendor pushes his cart past burnt cars outside the headquarters of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum's Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism in Niamey on August 7, 2023. © AFP

9:31pm: 'People we speak to here seem very opposed to military intervention'

Speaking from neighbouring Benin, FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris-Trent said that there was little appetite for the use of armed force against Niger's junta.

“People here are also worried about a spiral of violence which could occur if there is a military intervention, saying they’re concerned that if their armed forces take part as pledged in an ECOWAS military intervention then they could fear reprisal attacks," she said. "And the consequences of this becoming violent could make things harder for people living in … some of the poorest parts of the planet.”

8:21pm: No option in Niger 'off the table' for ECOWAS, says Nigerian president

The West African bloc ECOWAS has not ruled out any options for resolving the crisis in Niger, even if diplomacy is the preferred solution, the presidency of Nigeria and the bloc said Tuesday.

"No options have been taken off of the table," President Bola Tinubu's spokesman said.

7:36pm: Funding for Niger counterterrorism part of US aid paused since coup, State Department says

Funding for international military education and training, peacekeeping operations and foreign military financing programmes supporting Niger's counterterrorism capabilities are among the assistance the United States paused after the coup in the country, the State Department said on Tuesday.

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters the United States is still hopeful and trying to achieve a return to constitutional order in Niger since President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted late last month.

7:10pm: Nigerian president announces new sanctions against individuals involved in coup

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu has ordered new financial sanctions on Niger through Nigeria's central bank, targeting entities and individuals involved in last month's military coup, his spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said on Tuesday.

6:19pm: Nigeria's Tinubu and ECOWAS would prefer diplomatic and peaceful resolution to Niger crisis

Nigeria's President Bola Tinubu and West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which he chairs, would prefer a diplomatic and peaceful resolution to the military takeover in Niger, Tinubu's spokesman Ajuri Ngelale said on Tuesday.

5:01pm: Niger misses $3.8 million treasury bond repayment following coup, sanctions, says debt agency

Niger has failed to pay 2.341 billion CFA francs ($3.76 million) in principals on treasury bonds due on July 31, the West African debt agency Umoa-Titres said on Tuesday.

The agency noted in a statement that the payments were missed in the context of sanctions imposed by West Africa's economic and monetary union UEMOA following the military takeover late last month.

"This situation is being closely monitored," it added.

4:47pm: Border closures having a 'biting impact' on Niger and neighbouring states

ECOWAS sanctions sealing off Niger’s borders with the bloc following the military coup are already being felt in neighbouring countries, which landlocked Niger relies upon for access to much-needed supplies. FRANCE 24’s Catherine Norris-Trent reports from Benin’s port of Cotonou, where in other times trucks and lorries laden with goods travelled north to Niger.

3:31pm: UN aid stocks squeezed by sanctions and border closures

The military coup is hampering the United Nations' humanitarian efforts in Niger, one of the world's poorest countries, as border and airspace closures have cut off supplies of medicine and food, a UN official said on Tuesday.

UN aid agencies are scrambling to eke out depleting stocks just as regional sanctions potentially increase the number of people in need, the UN humanitarian chief in Niger, Louise Aubin, warned.

Any humanitarian cutbacks could have devastating impacts in Niger, which has one of highest rates of child mortality in the world and whose rural communities have been hit by a deadly Islamist insurgency.

"There are no flights coming in at the moment. So that is becoming an issue," Aubin said. "Being able to mobilise food means obviously being able to bring in food from the outside."

Over 4 million people were already targeted for UN emergency assistance before the July 26 putsch.

3:18pm: Blinken says Wagner Group 'taking advantage' of Niger coup

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Russia's Wagner mercenaries are taking advantage of instability in coup-hit Niger, whose neighbor Mali has become a partner of Moscow.

In an interview with the BBC released Tuesday, Blinken said he doubted that Wagner  which in June staged a brief rebellion against President Vladimir Putin  plotted the Nigerien military's July 26 ouster of the elected president, Western ally Mohamed Bazoum.

"I think what happened, and what continues to happen in Niger, was not instigated by Russia or by Wagner, but ... they tried to take advantage of it," Blinken said in the interview, according to the BBC.

Wagner has partnered with African nations including Mali and the Central African Republic, leading to wide accusations of abuses by rights groups and Western governments.

Niger has been the key base for US and French anti-jihadist operations in the Sahel, even more so with the withdrawal of French and other international forces from Mali.

Blinken told FRANCE 24's sister radio station on Tuesday that diplomacy remained the best way to resolve the situation.

© France 24

2:37pm: France 'fully supports regional efforts to restore democracy in Niger'

France stands by its policy of backing efforts to "restore democracy" in Niger where the president was removed by a military coup, a diplomatic source told AFP on Tuesday.

But President Emmanuel Macron's government believes it is up to regional organisation ECOWAS "to take a decision on how to restore the constitutional order in Niger, whatever that decision may be", the source said.

"Like all our partners, we fully support the regional countries' efforts to restore democracy in Niger," the source added.

West African leaders are to hold a summit on the crisis in Niger this week after the country's military rulers defied an ultimatum to restore the elected government or face possible military intervention.

2:06pm: Niger junta says it cannot host West African mission

The military junta in Niger has informed ECOWAS that it cannot host a delegation from the West African regional bloc, citing reasons of security due to what it characterised as widespread anger among the Nigerien population following sanctions imposed by the bloc.

"The current context of anger and revolt among the population following the sanctions imposed by ECOWAS makes it impossible to welcome this delegation in the required serenity and security," Niger's foreign affairs ministry wrote in a letter addressed to the ECOWAS representation in Niamey.

2:00pm: Niger junta 'cementing grip on power' with announcement of new PM

Despite mounting international pressure for the Niger’s ruling junta to step down its decision to name a new prime minister is an indication that the military will try to hold on to leadership in the West African country, says FRANCE 24’s senior reporter James André.

“They are cementing their grip on power… they are trying to send a message that they are creating a government around them[sevles].”

1:04pm: France suspends aid to Burkina Faso

France is suspending development aid and budgetary assistance to Burkina Faso, its foreign ministry announced Sunday. The statement comes days after Burkina Faso and Mali announced that they would consider any military intervention against the new military rulers in Niger as a "declaration of war". FRANCE 24's Justice Baidoo reports.

12:04pm: West Africa bloc pins hopes on Niger coup mediation ahead of summit

West African countries and global powers hope there is still a window of opportunity for mediation with Niger's coup leaders ahead of an ECOWAS summit on Thursday where leaders will discuss the possibility of military intervention to restore democracy.

"They are looking at talks to try and find another way out of this, and one suggestion is another ECOWAS delegation could be sent to Niger," says FRANCE 24's Catherine Norris-Trent reporting from Cotonou, Benin. "At the moment it seems that the time is for diplomacy, rather than an immediate military intervention." 

9:05am: Nigeria 'cannot afford' ECOWAS military intervention in Niger, critics say

In Nigeria there is opposition to possible military intervention by ECOWAS following the coup that ousted Niger's elected President.

The West African bloc's largest economic power currently faces pressing internal problems including high inflation and an ongoing fight against Islamic terrorism.

"[Critics say] the president should look for diplomatic ways to mitigate the problem taking place in Niger and not go for military intervention. Nigeria cannot afford that right now," says FRANCE 24 correspondent Chinwe Ossondu, in Lagos, Nigeria.

4:56am: Blinken says diplomacy 'preferred way' to resolve Niger crisis

Diplomacy is the best option for the international community to deal with the coup crisis in Niger, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said overnight. 

"Diplomacy is certainly the preferred way of resolving this situation," he told French Radio RFI.

"It is ECOWAS' current approach. It is our approach," he said, referring to the West African bloc amid efforts to reinstate the ousted democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum, who was detained last week. 

Blinken declined to comment on a possible withdrawal of US soldiers from Niger.

12:32am: US envoy meets Niger coup leaders but sees no headway

The second-ranking US diplomat met Niger's military leaders on Monday to press to reverse a coup but she reported no headway a day after the junta ignored an ultimatum from the West African bloc.

Victoria Nuland, who is the acting deputy secretary of state, said she met for more than two hours with chiefs of the military who on July 26 ousted Mohamed Bazoum, a democratically elected Western ally. She said the coup leaders refused to let her meet with the ousted president.

She described the talks as "extremely frank and at times quite difficult" but that she offered "a number of options" to exit the crisis and restore the relationship with the United States, which like other Western nations has suspended aid over the coup.

"This was a first conversation in which the United States was offering its good offices if there is a desire on the part of the people who are responsible for this to return to the constitutional order," she told reporters by telephone before flying out.

"I would not say that we were in any way taken up on that offer."

11:46pm: Niger coup leaders name new prime minister

Coup leaders in Niger on Monday evening named Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine as the country’s new prime minister in a statement read out on national television.

Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine held the position of cabinet director in 2001, then finance minister in 2002 under former president Mamadou Tandja. He served as finance minister until Tandja was overthrown in a coup d'état in 2010.

In Monday’s statement, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane also named Lieutenant-Colonel Habibou Assoumane as Niger’s new commander of the presidential guard.

Key developments from Monday, August 7:

West African regional bloc ECOWAS will hold a summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja on Thursday to discuss the coup in Niger, ECOWAS spokesperson Emos Lungu told Reuters on Monday.

A deadline set by ECOWAS for Niger’s junta to return power to the country’s ousted president expired on Sunday. 

The closure of Niger's airspace by the military who have seized power is complicating services to certain African destinations by European airlines, which had to make some urgent adjustments on Monday.

Shortly after the closure of Niger's airspace "until further notice", several aircrafts in flight were immediately forced to divert. Flights from Libreville, Douala, Kinshasa and Cotonou bound for Paris had to return to their point of departure to refuel in anticipation of a longer journey.

Read yesterday's live blog to see how the day's events unfolded.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and Reuters)

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