Canada is speaking out against a coup in Niger, but has not joined other nations in threatening to cut off aid to the West African country.
Last Wednesday, a faction of the Niger army claimed to have overthrown the country’s democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, after arresting him in his palace.
In a tweet on Friday nightGlobal Affairs Canada wrote that Ottawa “strongly condemns the attempted coup” in Niger and called for Bazoum’s release.
“We reaffirm our support for Niger’s democracy and reiterate our call for the release of President Bazoum,” the department wrote, expressing support for the Economic Community of West African States, a group of 15 countries known as ECOWAS.
1/2 Canada strongly condemns the attempted coup in Niger led by elements of the defense and security forces. We reaffirm our support for Niger’s democracy and reiterate our call for the release of President Bazoum.
That bloc has threatened to sanction the leaders of the military junta and send in troops if Bazoum does not return to power within a week.
Britain and the European Union have withdrawn aid from the country, while Washington has considered doing the same. The Trudeau government has given no indication that it is thinking of cutting humanitarian and development dollars for Niger, which have totaled about $60 million per year.
The riot in Niger is the latest in a series of coup attempts in the Sahel region, where the so-called Islamic State group has been recruiting militants and carrying out massacres. Political instability ensues as Russian mercenary group Wagner meddles in countries throughout the region.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last met Bazoum in November at a summit in Tunis, where he praised her “leadership on progressive values” such as the inclusion of women and democracy in a region of growing authoritarianism.
At the time, Bazoum noted that Canada had been less present in his country since the 1970s, when Ottawa was at the forefront of development programs.
“We have a little distance and we are going to work on that (to) make sure that our ties make us even closer,” Bazoum said in French on November 20, 2022. “We will commit to strengthening our relationship. .”
Four nations are run by military governments in West and Central Africa, where there have been nine attempted or attempted coups since 2020.
ECOWAS said on Sunday that all its member countries will suspend trade and financial transactions with Niger and freeze assets in regional central banks.
Niger is highly dependent on aid
Economic sanctions could have a profound effect on Nigerians, who live in the world’s third poorest country, according to the latest United Nations data. The country depends on imports from Nigeria for up to 90 percent of its energy, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.
Sanctions could be disastrous and Niger needs to find a solution to avoid them, the country’s Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou told French media outlet Radio France Internationale on Sunday.
“When people say there is an embargo, the land borders are closed, the air borders are closed, it is extremely difficult for people. Niger is a country that is highly dependent on the international community,” he said in French.
The 15-nation ECOWAS bloc has tried unsuccessfully to restore democracies in nations where the military has seized power in recent years.
In the 1990s, ECOWAS intervened in Liberia during its civil war. In 2017, he intervened in The Gambia to prevent the predecessor of the new president, Yahya Jammeh, from interrupting the transfer of power.
About 7,000 soldiers from Ghana, Nigeria and Senegal entered, according to the Global Observatory, which provides analysis on peace and security issues.
If the regional bloc uses force, it could spark violence not only between Nigerien forces and ECOWAS, but also between civilians supporting the coup and those against it, Niger analysts say.
“While this remains an unlikely threat and action, the consequences for civilians of such an approach if the coup leaders choose confrontation would be catastrophic,” said Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a think tank. experts based in Morocco. .
Lyammouri also said he does not see a “military intervention because of the violence it could unleash.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken praised ECOWAS leadership on Sunday for “upholding the constitutional order in Niger” after the sanctions announcement, joining the bloc in calling for the immediate release of Bazoum and his family.