June 13, 2024

Léonardo Simão, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for West Africa, has expressed concerns over the potential escalation of insecurity throughout the region if the crisis in Niger is not addressed adequately. He emphasized the adverse impact on the country’s development and the lives of its population, particularly the 4.3 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Speaking about the attempted overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, Mr. Simão reaffirmed support for ECOWAS’ efforts to restore constitutional order and strengthen democratic gains in Niger. The regional bloc has taken decisive action, demanding the return of the democratically elected president to power within a week and imposing financial sanctions and border closures on Niger.

Nevertheless, neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso’s military governments have warned that the use of force in Niger would be considered a “declaration of war.” Mr. Simão clarified that ECOWAS is currently pursuing a peaceful resolution to the crisis and is not explicitly advocating for military intervention. Other diplomatic initiatives, including the visit of Chad’s President to engage with key figures in Niger, are also underway.

While Mr. Simão hopes that military action will not be necessary, he expressed concerns about the potential spread of terrorism in the region if the situation in Niger remains unresolved. However, he clarified that the decision on the use of force lies solely with ECOWAS and not the UN. Nonetheless, he stressed that ECOWAS has the right to explore other measures if they see fit.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has also shown deep concern over reports of the arrest of several members of the ousted Niger government, calling for adherence to Niger’s international human rights obligations and the prompt restoration of constitutional order.

The UN and humanitarian partners remain committed to providing vital aid to the most vulnerable segments of the population in Niger, but it is crucial to create a conducive operating environment for the continuation of such assistance.

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