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Niger Republic closes air space as ECOWAS’s Sunday ultimatum elapses


Niger Republic closes air space as ECOWAS’s Sunday ultimatum elapses

Story from Vincent CHIKAMSO

Niger Republic coup leaders have ordered the closure of the country’s airspace until further notice, as a result of the threat of military intervention from their neighbours.

Tracking of flight websites Flightradar24 is showing that there are currently no aircraft in Niger’s skies.

READ ALSO: Nigeria cuts Niger Republic electricity supply amidst other coup sanctions

The West African group of countries, ECOWAS, had earlier warned that it could use force if the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum was not reinstated by 23:00 GMT on Sunday.

A junta spokesperson says Niger’s Armed Forces are ready to defend the country.

Mr Bazoum was detained on 26 July, and Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, commander of the presidential guard, later proclaimed himself the new leader.

The military takeover has been internationally condemned, by everyone, including the former colonial power France and the rest of the European Union, as well as the United Nations and the United States.

According to a statement on national television on Sunday, the representative from Niger’s Junta said they had information that “a foreign power” was preparing to attack Niger.

After a crisis meeting in Nigeria, ECOWAS military chiefs said on Friday they had drawn up a detailed plan for the possible use of force.

“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out here, including the resources needed, the how and when we are going deploy the force,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security.

He added, “We want diplomacy to work, and we want this message clearly transmitted to them (Niger’s junta) that we are giving them every opportunity to reverse what they have done”.

They issued their ultimatum a week ago, demanding the generals hand over power by midnight local time, which has now passed.

ECOWAS is a regional trading bloc of 15 West African countries, including Nigeria, Senegal, Togo, and Ghana.

However, coup leaders seem to be showing no sign of willingness to yield power, and on Sunday thousands of their supporters rallied defiantly at a stadium in Niger’s capital Niamey.

Two of Niger’s neighbours – Burkina Faso and Mali – earlier warned they would treat any outside military intervention in Niger as “a declaration of war” against them. Burkina Faso and Mali are both ECOWAS members but have been suspended from the bloc since being ruled by military juntas.

Niger is a significant uranium producer – a fuel that is vital for nuclear power – and under Mr Bazoum was a key Western ally in the fight against Islamist militants in West Africa’s Sahel region, why the intervention is really necessary.

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