The President of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is expressing concern over tensions in Niger after mutinous soldiers ousted embattled President Mamadou Tandja in a coup d’état Thursday.
Mohammed Ibn Chambas said officials of the regional bloc will soon arrive in Niger to ascertain the situation on the ground as well as encourage the military to immediately return the country to constitutional rule.
“We are very and deeply concerned about it and that has been expressed by the chairman of ECOWAS in his statement that this is a throwback to the past in the region, a situation which obviously is unacceptable. We have a policy now of zero tolerance for violent change of government just as we find totally unacceptable attempts by governments to hang on to power through manipulation of constitutions,” he said.
Abdul Kamardine, a human rights activist in the capital, Niamey said that shortly after 10pm local time, the spokesman of the new military regime, Colonel Abdulkarim Goukoye announced on national television that they have taken over the government.
In a statement, Colonel Goukoye said the aim of the takeover is to restore democracy after announcing the suspension of the constitution and all government institutions.
He also imposed a dusk to dawn curfew from 6pm to 6am and closed Niger’s borders with its neighbors while suspending land and air travels.
But ECOWAS President Ibn Chambas said the new military regime should return the country to constitutional rule.
“The way forward in Niger is through a consensus around the constitution and this is what ECOWAS will work with all Nigeriens to re-establish dialogue and to build consensus on constitutional government,” Chambas said.
Colonel Goukoye urged the international community’s understanding and support after saying the military is the custodian of Niger’s national unity.
The new military regime has tasked a military council known as Conseil Superieur Pour La Restoration De la Democratie (CSRD) to help with the country’s return to democracy.
Ibn Chambas said ECOWAS is working closely with the African Union (AU) ahead of sending officials of the regional bloc to ascertain the situation in Niger.
“The chairman of the ECOWAS is in consultations with the AU chairperson. I have spoken to Mr. Jean Ping, chairperson of AU Commission and others and we are working as quickly as possible that is as soon as the security situation on the ground allows it to send an ECOWAS mission, and hopefully to be followed quickly by the AU. We will work hand in hand with the African Union to ensure that there is restoration of consensus around the constitution in Niger,” Chambas said.
Deposed President Tandja and a majority of his cabinet are reportedly still being held by the mutinous soldiers at Tondibrah military camp, a training ground for new military recruits.