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Deposed Niger President Faces Treason Trial as Coup Leaders Take Legal Action
Leaders of the recent coup in Niger have announced that deposed President Mohamed Bazoum will face trial for treason due to unspecified communications with foreign powers.
Niger's military regime, which seized power through a coup in late July, declared its intention on Monday to prosecute former President Mohamed Bazoum on charges of "high treason" and endangering national security.
In a televised statement, Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, the spokesperson for the junta, announced that the regime had accumulated sufficient evidence to take legal action against the ousted president and his associates, both domestic and foreign, for charges of high treason and the undermining of Niger's internal and external security.
Bazoum, who had been democratically elected as president of the West African nation, was removed from office during the coup on July 26. Since then, he, along with his son and wife, has been held at his presidential residence.
A representative of the junta, speaking on state TV, noted that the regime had amassed proof to proceed with the prosecution, likely referring to communications that Bazoum had engaged in with foreign nations while under house arrest.
The junta's statement pointed out that influential politicians from West Africa and their international supporters had propagated baseless accusations, aiming to disrupt peaceful resolutions to the crisis as a pretext for military intervention. The regime linked the charges against Bazoum to his interactions with these figures. Notably, the statement did not name specific Western countries and did not specify a trial date.
Following his ousting by his presidential guard on July 26, Bazoum's house arrest with his family has persisted. Despite the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) initially threatening intervention and imposing a one-week ultimatum for Bazoum's reinstatement, no military action has materialized.
In light of these developments, the African Union convened to discuss the situation in Niger. The junta's mixed signals about Bazoum's future reflect its confidence in the limited likelihood of external military intervention, given the differences in perspectives between Western and West African capitals. Dialogue between U.S. officials and the junta has yielded minimal results thus far.
Russia's influence is a growing concern in the region. Niger, with its population of approximately 26 million and dire economic conditions, had been a democratic ally of the U.S. and European nations in the Sahel area. The presence of U.S., French, German, and Italian troops in Niger aimed to counter local branches of terrorist organizations like al-Qaeda and the "Islamic State." There are worries that the junta in Niger might mimic Mali and Burkina Faso, which expelled French troops following coups, potentially paving the way for increased Russian influence. The presence of the Wagner Group, a Russian private paramilitary organization, in Mali, has particularly raised alarm bells about Russian sway in the region.
Shortly before the announcement of potential charges against Bazoum, a religious delegation from neighboring Nigeria expressed optimism about diplomatic de-escalation, highlighting the junta's apparent willingness to engage in dialogue. Both sides seem to have motivations for continuing negotiations, given the perceived risks and potential loss of life associated with a military intervention.
Meanwhile, the junta is consolidating its power, having formed a new government and holding defiant rallies. This pattern is consistent with the regime's rapid efforts to establish itself by replacing top leadership figures and asserting control over state-run industries in the country of around 25 million inhabitants.
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