Niger: Falana warns ECOWAS against military option

aaece femi falana

Human rights lawyer, Femi Falana, SAN, has called on the Authority of the Economic Community of West African States not to attack the Niger Republic as a whole but impose sanctions on the military junta.

According to Falana, “Apart from suspending Niger from ECOWAS, the leaders of the sub-regional body should refrain from attending international conferences with coup plotters as was recently witnessed during the recently concluded Russia-Africa Summit held in St. Petersburg, Russia.”

Falana made the calls in a paper titled, “Unconstitutional Change of Governments: the Role of Bar Associations”, delivered today at a two-day conference of the West African Bar Association in Accra, Ghana.

The paper which was obtained by our correspondent in Abuja reads in part: “Last week, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the Presidential Guards’ Unit, overthrew the Mohamed Bazoum administration and declared himself Niger’s new ruler.”

“In a prompt response to the embarrassing development, the Economic Commission of West African States gave the junta a seven-day ultimatum to step down from power and restore constitutional rule. ECOWAS leaders threatened to ‘take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order’ and that if its demands were not met, ‘such measures may include the use of force.’

“The African Union equally issued a statement demanding that the military return to their barracks and restore constitutional order within 15 days. It did not say what would happen after the deadline.”

“The United States and the European Union have backed the actions of the ECOWAS. However, the military rulers in Niger have warned against any armed intervention in the country, as West African leaders were set to meet on Sunday for an emergency summit to decide on further actions to pressure the army to restore constitutional order after a coup last week.”

“The military junta has decided to hold President Mohamed Bazoum and 180 other political leaders in Niger as hostages.”

“Sadly, the junta has successfully mobilised the civilian populace in Niger to stage pro-coup demonstrations. The military regimes in Burkina Faso and Mali have threatened to jointly resist any military invasion of Niger.”

Speaking on the recent developments, Falana brought to light the acceptance of the coup by the majority of the Nigerien, a development which he advised that ECOWAS must “seriously consider”.

“While the resolve of the ECOWAS leaders to resort to force to restore President Mohamed Bazoum is understandable the acceptance of the coup by the majority of the Nigerien people must be seriously considered.”

“Having not invaded Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Mali when power-drunk soldiers sacked democratically elected governments, ECOWAS leaders should not play into the hands of the enemies of Africa by launching a military attack on Niger.”

Speaking further, Falana noted that the Nigerien government has collaborated with Nigeria in prosecuting the counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militancy in a region beset by security crisis.

He further noted that the ongoing efforts of the Chadian leader,  Mahamat  Déby to mediate in the face-off between ECOWAS and the junta should be encouraged.

“Yesterday, the General met President Mohamed Bazoum in custody in Niger’s capital, Niamey

“He also met the coup leaders. After the meetings, he said that his mediation effort was aimed at finding a ‘peaceful solution to the crisis which is shaking’ Niger, which borders Chad.”

“It should be noted that Niger is a state party to the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance. Niger ratified the Charter on 4 October 2011, and deposited its instrument of ratification with the African Union on 8 November 2011.”

“Article 23 of the Charter provides that, ‘State Parties agree that the use of, inter alia, the following illegal means of accessing or maintaining power constitute an unconstitutional change of government and shall draw appropriate sanctions by the Union: 1. Any putsch or coup d’ etat against a democratically elected government.’”

“The Charter further provides that, ‘2. Any intervention by mercenaries to replace a democratically elected government. 3. Any replacement of a democratically elected government by armed dissidents or rebels. 4. Any refusal by an incumbent government to relinquish power to the winning party or candidate after free, fair, and regular elections; or 10 5. Any amendment or revision of the constitution or legal instruments, which is an infringement on the principles of democratic change of government.”