A day ahead of a meeting of West African military chiefs to hammer out what a military intervention in Niger might look like, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) appeared at odds over whether military action should be on the table. Follow our live blog for the latest updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
8:45pm: Coup crisis is deepening Niger food insecurity, UN says
The United Nations warned Wednesday that the ongoing crisis in Niger could significantly worsen food insecurity in the impoverished country, urging humanitarian exemptions to sanctions and border closures to avert catastrophe.
The UN humanitarian agency OCHA highlighted that even before Niger’s democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum was toppled in a coup late last month, the country counted more than three million acutely food-insecure people.
More than seven million others, who are currently considered to be moderately food-insecure, “could see their situation worsen due to the unfolding crisis”, it warned, citing a preliminary analysis from the World Food Programme.
“We urge all parties to facilitate humanitarian exemptions, enabling immediate access to people in need of critical food and basic necessities,” Margot van der Velden, WFP’s acting regional director for Western Africa, said in a statement.
She also called for more financial support, warning the worsening humanitarian situation in Niger is coming at a time when WFP is being forced to cut rations globally due to lacking funds.
8:37pm: New US ambassador to Niger to arrive ‘later this week’
The new US ambassador to Niger, Kathleen FitzGibbon, will arrive in Niamey, the State Department said on Wednesday.
A US official said she is expected to arrive later this week.
FitzGibbon’s arrival is a signal of Washington’s continued engagement with the situation, State Department deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel told reporters, adding that there are no plans for her to present her credentials to coup leaders and that it is not necessary for the work at the embassy.
7:12pm: African Union council ‘rejects’ military intervention
The African Union’s Peace and Security Council, the organ in charge of enforcing the bloc’s decisions, met in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on Monday for talks on the crisis in Niger that one African diplomat described as “difficult“.
According to several sources cited by French media, the council rejected an ECOWAS proposal to stage a military intervention unless the Nigerien military junta cedes power and reinstates President Mohamed Bazoum. Bazoum has been under house arrest since the July 26 coup.
Speaking to FRANCE 24’s sister station RFI, a diplomat who attended the meeting said many southern and northern African member countries were “fiercely against any military intervention”.
On Wednesday the council had still not issued a joint statement on the bloc’s stance.
10:15am: Niger troops killed in attack near Mali border
A detachment of the armed forces was “the victim of a terrorist ambush near the town of Koutougou” on Tuesday, the ministry said in a statement, adding that another 20 soldiers had been injured, six of them seriously.
The military junta that seized power in Niamey last month has pointed to the country’s worsening security situation as justification for its coup.
Key developments from Tuesday, August 15:
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The visit came shortly after the West African bloc ECOWAS said military chiefs would meet in Ghana’s capital Accra on Thursday to discuss a possible intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger and reinstate the country’s deposed president, Mohamed Bazoum.
In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and its sister radio RFI, Niger’s exiled foreign minister condemned the putschists’ announcement on Monday that they would prosecute Bazoum for treason, saying the junta had “no legitimacy to try anyone”.