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Bleak prospects for Niger amid sanctions and stern warnings

THE EUROPEAN UNION said today that it would hold those who carried out the coup in Niger responsible for any attacks against EU citizens, diplomats and embassies.

The warning comes after supporters of Wednesday’s military coup protested outside the French embassy on Sunday and set a door on fire.

Thousands of people took to the streets of the capital Niamey to denounce the country’s former colonial ruler, with many waving Russian flags and chanting the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The EU pledged to “quickly and resolutely” apply sanctions on Niger agreed on Sunday by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

Measures include suspending all commercial and financial transactions between Ecowas member states and Niger and freezing of assets in regional central banks.

Economic sanctions could have a deep impact on Nigeriens, who, according to United Nations data, live in the third-poorest country in the world. Niger relies on imports from Nigeria for up to 90 per cent of its power, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

Sanctions could be disastrous and Niger needs to find a solution to avoid them, the country’s deposed prime minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou said on Sunday.

He told Radio France Internationale: “When people say there’s an embargo, land borders are closed, air borders are closed, it’s extremely difficult for people.

“Niger is a country that relies heavily on the international community.” 

French President Emmanuel Macron scolded the leaders of the coup, telling them that his country would not tolerate any attacks against France or any of its economic interests.

France has already taken steps to suspend security co-operation as well as financial aid to Niger and has joined the international chorus of voices calling for the immediate release of ousted president Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held in detention since Wednesday.

West African nations have given coup leaders a week to reinstate the democratically elected president and have threatened to use force if the demand is not met.

The controlling military group reportedly arrested a number of government officials late on Sunday. These included Mahamane Sani Mahamadou, the minister of petroleum and son of former president Mahamadou Issoufou; Kassoum Moctar, minister of education; Ousseini Hadizatou Yacouba, the minister of mines, and Foumakoye Gado, the president of the ruling party. 

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