The 15-nation ECOWAS bloc’s response to the Sahel region’s seventh coup of recent years came as crowds in Niger’s capital Niamey burned French flags and stoned the former colonial power’s mission, drawing tear gas from police.
At an emergency summit in Nigeria to discuss last week’s coup, leaders of the Economic Community of West African States called for constitutional order to be restored, warning of reprisals if not.
ECOWAS and the eight-member West African Economic and Monetary Union said that with immediate effect borders with Niger would be closed, commercial flights banned, financial transactions halted, national assets frozen and aid ended. Military officials involved in the coup would be banned from travelling and have their assets frozen, it added.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed ECOWAS’s action.
Similar sanctions were imposed by ECOWAS on Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea following coups in those countries in the past three years.
Although the financial sanctions led to defaults on debt – in Mali in particular – such measures have tended to hurt civilians more than the military leaders who seized power in some of the world’s poorest countries, political analysts say. Timelines to restore civilian rule have been agreed in all three countries, but there has been little progress since then.
The military coup in Niger, which began unfolding on Wednesday, has been widely condemned by neighbours and international partners including the United States, the United Nations, the African Union, the European Union and former colonial power France. They have all refused to recognise the new leaders led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.
Niger has been a key ally in Western campaigns against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in the Sahel, and there are concerns that the coup could open the door to greater Russian influence there. Thousands of French troops were forced to withdraw from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso following coups there.
Niger is the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium in the world.
Meanwhile, Russia’s Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month, has hailed the coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.