Niger crisis could worsen insecurity throughout West Africa, UN envoy warns.

Date31 August 2023

The security situation in wider West Africa could worsen unless the political crisis in Niger is resolved, the top UN official for the region said on Tuesday, underlining the need for peace.

Briefing journalists at UN Headquarters in New York, Leonardo Santos Simao reiterated condemnation of the attempted overthrow of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum on 26 July.

He also underscored support for efforts by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) aimed at restoring constitutional order and consolidating democratic gains in the country.

People deserve peace

'The unfolding crisis, if not addressed, will exacerbate the deteriorating security situation in the region. It will also negatively impact the development and lives of the population in a country where 4.3 million people need humanitarian assistance,' he said, speaking from Accra, Ghana.

He added that 'Niger and the region do not need coups d'etat. Populations deserve to enjoy peace, democratic governance and prosperity.'

As the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative, Mr. Simao heads the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS).

He was in Nigeria on Sunday to participate in the ECOWAS extraordinary summit on the crisis, where leaders took 'decisive action commensurate with the gravity of the situation.'

ECOWAS takes action

The 15-member bloc of West African States issued a communique demanding that Niger's democratically elected President be returned to power within a week.

Failing that, they would 'take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order', including use of force. ECOWAS also imposed financial sanctions on Niger and closed air and land borders with the country.

In response, the military governments in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso said use of force in Niger would be a 'declaration of war', according to international media reports.

Mr. Simao had no comment on their statement but said he will travel to Mali's capital, Bamako, on Wednesday 'so I will have interaction with the authorities and maybe these matters can be raised.'

Hopes for resolution

He said ECOWAS 'is trying to give time for a peaceful settlement to take place' and described the situation as 'very fluid'.

Other diplomatic efforts are also underway, including a visit by the President of...

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