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US and UN Concerned for Ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum’s Health

The US and UN are concerned about the health and safety of Niger’s elected President Mohamed Bazoum, who has spent more than two weeks under house arrest.

“We are greatly worried about his health and his personal safety and the personal safety of his family,” a US state department spokesman said.

The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) had given Niger’s coup leaders until Sunday to stand down.

Ecowas said on Thursday it was still considering all options.

“No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort,” Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who chaired a meeting of Ecowas leaders, said.

“We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting Niger in the journey towards peaceful democratic stability,” he added.

Ahead of the meeting, Muslim clerics from northern Nigeria, which shares a long border with Niger, had urged President Tinubu against using force to oust the coup leaders.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was concerned about the reportedly “deplorable living conditions” Mr Bazoum and his family were in.

Earlier, his party said they were being detained under “cruel” and “inhumane” conditions, Reuters news agency reported.

Mr Bazoum was deposed on 26 July.

Since then, a military junta has ruled Niger while Mr Bazoum has been kept in the presidential palace. Members of the junta have made no comment about the ousted leader’s condition.

On Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Mr Bazoum and assured him of the US’s ongoing support, Washington said.

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller added: “As time goes on, as he’s held in isolation, it’s a situation that is of growing concern to us.”

Mr Bazoum’s political party, PNDS-Tarayya, claimed in a statement that Mr Bazoum and his family had no access to running water, electricity, fresh goods or doctors.

The statement echoed previous comments made by Niger’s elected prime minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, who has said Mr Bazoum was being held with his wife and son without electricity or water.

The head of the presidential guard, Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, claims he now runs Niger, while the junta appointed ex-finance minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, as the new prime minister following the coup.

A new cabinet has now been announced by the junta, despite leaders across West Africa demanding that they end the military takeover.

The new regime has also closed Niger’s airspace until further notice, citing the “threat of military intervention” from Ecowas.

On Wednesday, Gen Tchiani met influential Nigerian Muslim cleric, former Emir of Kano Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, in a bid to mediate the crisis.

It was one of the first meetings the coup leader has held, having previously shunned several envoys including Nigeria’s most senior religious leader, as well as delegates from the US, UN and African Union.

Also on Wednesday, France denied accusations from Niger’s military junta that it was trying to destabilise the country. Niger is a former colony of France, having received independence in 1960.

Coup leaders claimed French aircraft had breached the country’s airspace and French soldiers had freed captured jihadists in order to attack military positions.

“France firmly denies the new unfounded accusations by the putschists in Niger,” the French defence and foreign ministries said in a joint statement quoted by AFP news agency.

They added that the flight had been authorised by Niger’s military.

Both the US and France operate military bases in Niger as part of operations to disrupt jihadist groups operating in the wider region.

Niger became the main base for French troops after they were told to leave Mali following a coup there.

As part of diplomatic efforts, two envoys of President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria have met the junta in the capital Niamey.

Source : BBC