Niger’s coup leader has declared that he will not give in to pressure to reinstate deposed President Mohamed Bazoum, criticizing sanctions imposed by West African leaders as “illegal” and “inhumane” and urging his countrymen to get ready to defend their nation.
General Abdourahamane Tchiani‘s comments, issued in a televised address on Wednesday, came as the defense chiefs of the Economic Community of West African States met in Nigeria to discuss the crisis in Niger.
The regional bloc has imposed sanctions on Niger that will affect the nation economically and threatened to use force if the president is not reinstated by August 6. It has also dispatched a delegation to Niger – headed by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar – to negotiate with the soldiers who seized power.
General Tchiani, however, remained defiant. The self-declared leader said the military “rejects these sanctions altogether and refuses to give in to any threats, wherever they come from. We refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Niger”.
“We, therefore, call on the people of Niger as a whole and their unity to defeat all those who want to inflict unspeakable suffering on our hard-working populations and destabilize our country,” he added.
Tchiani, who commands Niger’s presidential guard, went on to warn of difficult times ahead and said that the “hostile and radical” attitudes of those who oppose his rule provide no added value. The sanctions imposed by ECOWAS were “illegal, unfair, inhuman and unprecedented”, he said.
European countries including France, Italy and Germany, have also been evacuating their citizens, with the first military planes carrying evacuees landing in Paris and Rome on wednesday.
The French foreign ministry said nearly 1,000 people had left on four flights and said a fifth evacuation is under way.
Despite ECOWAS’s hardline response, military-backed governments in the region have supported Tchiani, with Mali and Burkina Faso saying that any foreign intervention in Niger would be considered a declaration of war against them, too.