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War brews in Nigeria’s Northern border as West Africa threatens force on Niger coup leaders

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Nigerien security forces prepare to disperse pro-junta demonstrators gathered outside the French embassy, in Niamey, the capital city of Niger July 30, 2023. REUTERS/Souleymane Ag Anara

West African nations imposed sanctions and threatened force on Sunday if Niger’s coup leaders fail to reinstate ousted President Mohammed Bazoum within a week, while supporters of the junta attacked the French embassy in Niamey.

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.

Images showed fires at the embassy walls and people being loaded into ambulances with bloodied legs.

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.

“Such measures may include the use of force,” their communique said, adding that defence officials would meet immediately to that effect.

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Chad’s President Mahamat Idriss Deby, who came to power in 2021 after a coup, met his Nigerian counterpart Bola Tinubu on the sidelines of the summit and volunteered to speak to the military leaders in Niger, two presidential aides told Reuters, asking not to be identified.

Niger’s state TV showed Deby arriving and meeting them.

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.

Niger’s prime minister under Bazoum’s government, Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, said ECOWAS sanctions would be disastrous because the country relies heavily on international partners to cover its budgetary needs.

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“I know the fragility of Niger, I know the economic and financial context of Niger having been the finance minister and now prime minister,” Mahamadou, who was abroad when the coup occurred, told France24 television from Paris.

“This is a country that will not be able to resist these kinds of sanctions. It will be catastrophic.”

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken welcomed ECOWAS’s action on Sunday.

“We join ECOWAS and regional leaders in calling for the immediate release of President Mohamed Bazoum and his family and the restoration of all state functions to the legitimate, democratically-elected government,” said Blinken in a statement.

CAN SANCTIONS WORK?

Similar sanctions were imposed by ECOWAS on Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea following coups in those countries in the past three years.

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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 implementing them.

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 one of the poorest countries in the world, receiving close to $2 billion a year in official development assistance, according to the World Bank.

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The United States, France, Italy and Germany have troops there on military training and missions to fight Islamist insurgents. Niger is also the world’s seventh-biggest producer of uranium, the radioactive metal widely used for nuclear energy and in nuclear weapons, as well as for treating cancer.

Ahead of the summit, Niger’s junta had warned that ECOWAS was considering an imminent military intervention in collaboration with other African and some Western nations.

“We want to once more remind ECOWAS or any other adventurer, of our firm determination to defend our homeland,” junta spokesperson Colonel Amadou Abdramane said.

‘COUP ERA MUST STOP’

At their invitation, thousands of people rallied in the capital on Sunday, some heading to France’s embassy.

“We are here to express our discontent against France’s interference in Niger’s affairs. Niger is an independent and sovereign country, so France’s decisions have no influence on us,” said protester Sani Idrissa.

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Similar to events in neighbouring Burkina Faso in September last year following a coup, some protesters tried to climb the embassy walls, while others stomped on burning French flags.

They were dispersed by Niger national guard.

France condemned the violence and said anyone attacking its nationals or interests would face a swift and stern response.

“The era of coups d’etat in Africa must stop. They are not acceptable,” French foreign minister Catherine Colonna Catherine Colonna told RTL radio, adding that the situation had calmed by the afternoon and no evacuation of French citizens was planned.

The European Union and France have cut off financial support to Niger and the United States has threatened to do the same.

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Sunday’s ECOWAS communique thanked nations in line with the bloc’s stance but “condemned the pronouncement of support by foreign governments and foreign private military contractors.”

Russia’s Wagner mercenary boss 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.

-Reuters

 

 

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Kunle Solaja is the author of landmark books on sports and journalism as well as being a multiple award-winning journalist and editor of long standing. He is easily Nigeria’s foremost soccer diarist and Africa's most capped FIFA World Cup journalist, having attended all FIFA World Cup finals from Italia ’90 to Qatar 2022. He was honoured at the Qatar 2022 World Cup by FIFA and AIPS.

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POLITICS

Slain bystander in Trump assasination attempt identified

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Republican presidential candidate and former U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he is assisted by the Secret Service after gunfire rang out during a campaign rally at the Butler Farm Show in Butler, Pennsylvania, U.S., July 13, 2024. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Donald Trump survived a weekend assassination attempt days before he is due to accept the formal Republican presidential nomination, in an attack that will further inflame the U.S. political divide and has raised questions about the security failures.

Authorities identified a rally attendee who was shot and killed as Corey Comperatore, 50, of Sarver, Pennsylvania, who Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro told reporters was killed when he dove on top of his family to protect them from the hail of bullets.

“Corey was an avid supporter of the former president, and was so excited to be there last night with him in the community,” Shapiro said, adding, “Political disagreements can never, ever be addressed through violence.”

On Saturday, Trump, 78, had just begun a campaign speech in Butler, Pennsylvania, about 30 miles (50 km) north of Pittsburgh, when shots rang out, hitting the former president’s right ear and streaking his face with blood.

“Fight! Fight! Fight!” Trump mouthed to supporters, pumping his fist, as Secret Service agents rushed him away. His campaign said he was doing well and appeared to have suffered no major injury besides a wound on his upper right ear.

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The FBI identified 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, as the suspect in what it called an attempted assassination. He was a registered Republican, according to state voter records and had made a $15 donation to a Democratic political action committee at the age of 17.

Law enforcement officials told reporters they had not yet identified a motive for the attack. Both Republicans and Democrats will be looking for evidence of Crooks’ political affiliation as they seek to cast the rival party as representing extremism.

The shooting occurred less than four months before the Nov. 5 election, when Trump faces an election rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden. Most opinion polls including those by Reuters/Ipsos show the two locked in a close contest.

The shooting whipsawed the discussion around the presidential campaign, which had recently focused on whether Biden, 81, should drop out following a disastrous June debate performance.

The Biden campaign had been seeking to reset its message, depicting Trump as a danger to democracy for his continued false claims about election fraud but said on Saturday it was suspending its political advertising for now.

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Secret Service agents fatally shot the suspect, the agency said, after he opened fire from the roof of a building about 150 yards (140 m) from the stage where Trump was speaking. An AR-15-style semiautomatic rifle used in the shooting was recovered near his body, according to sources.

The firearm was legally purchased by the suspect’s father, ABC and the Wall Street Journal reported, citing sources. Bomb-making materials were found in the suspect’s car, the Associated Press reported, citing sources.

Two other rally attendees were critically wounded, the Secret Service said.

“In this moment, it is more important than ever that we stand United, and show our True Character as Americans, remaining Strong and Determined, and not allowing Evil to Win,” Trump said on his Truth Social service on Sunday.

The Secret Service in a statement denied accusations by some Trump supporters that it had rejected campaign requests for additional security.

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“The assertion that a member of the former President’s security team requested additional security resources that the U.S. Secret Service or the Department of Homeland Security rebuffed is absolutely false,” said Secret Service spokesperson Anthony Guglielmi in a statement. “In fact, recently the U.S. Secret Service added protective resources and capabilities to the former President’s security detail.”

NEIGHBORS STUNNED

Residents of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, where the alleged shooter lived, expressed shock at the news on Sunday.

“It’s a little crazy to think that somebody that did an assassination attempt is that close, but it just kind of shows the political dynamic that we’re in right now with the craziness on each side,” said Wes Morgan, 42, who added that he rides bikes with his children on the street where the alleged shooter lived. “Bethel Park is a pretty blue-collar type of area. And to think that somebody was that close is a little insane.”

While mass shootings at schools, nightclubs and other public places are a regular feature of American life, the attack was the first shooting of a U.S. president or major party candidate since the 1981 attempted assassination of Republican President Ronald Reagan.

In 2011, Democratic then-Congresswoman Gabby Giffords was seriously wounded in an attack on a gathering of constituents in Arizona. Republican U.S. Representative Steve Scalise was also badly wounded in a politically motivated 2017 attack on a group of Republican representatives practicing for a charity baseball game.

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Giffords later founded a leading gun control organization, Scalise has remained a stalwart defender of gun rights.

Americans fear rising political violence, recent Reuters/Ipsos polling shows, with two out of three respondents to a May survey saying they worried violence could follow the election.

Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn his election defeat, fueled by his false claims that his loss was the result of widespread fraud. About 140 police officers were injured in the violence, four riot participants died that day, one police officer who responded died the following day and four responding officers later died by suicide.

Trump is due to receive his party’s formal nomination at the Republican National Convention, which kicks off in Milwaukee on Monday.

HOUSE TO PROBE SECURITY FAILURE

The shots appeared to come from outside the area secured by the Secret Service, the agency said.

Hours after the attack, the Oversight Committee in the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives summoned Secret Service Director Kimberly Cheatle to testify at a hearing scheduled for July 22.

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Leading Republicans and Democrats quickly condemned the violence, as did foreign leaders.

“There’s no place for this kind of violence in America. We must unite as one nation to condemn it,” Biden said in a statement.

Some of Trump’s Republican allies said they believed the attack was politically motivated.

“For weeks Democrat leaders have been fueling ludicrous hysteria that Donald Trump winning re-election would be the end of democracy in America,” said Scalise, the No. 2 House Republican.

“Clearly we’ve seen far-left lunatics act on violent rhetoric in the past. This incendiary rhetoric must stop.”

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Trump began the year facing multiple legal worries, including four separate criminal prosecutions.

He was found guilty in late May of trying to cover up hush money payments to a porn star. But the other three prosecutions he faces — including two for his attempts to overturn his defeat — have been ground to a halt by various factors, including a Supreme Court decision early this month that found him to be partly immune to prosecution.

Trump contends, without evidence, that all four prosecutions have been orchestrated by Biden to try to prevent him from returning to power.

-Reuters

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POLITICS

Morocco’s King Mohammed VI Condemns Attempted Assassination on Trump

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Former US President Donald Trump is rushed offstage after a shooting at a rally on July 13 in Butler, Pennsylvania.Photographer: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has sent a sympathy and solidarity message to former US President, Donald Trump following an assassination attempt targeted at him.

Trump, also a candidate in the US Presidential election was a target on Saturday while he was addressing his supporters during a campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.

According to a Reuters’ report, law enforcement identified the assailant as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks from Bethel Park, Pennsylvania.

In this message, His Majesty the King said that he was “shocked and deeply saddened by yesterday’s appalling assassination attempt at the campaign rally in Butler, Pennsylvania.”

King Mohammed VI

The Sovereign said he was relieved to learn that “you are safe,” while expressing His sympathy and solidarity following this heinous attack.

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In this message, His Majesty the King strongly condemns political violence and wishes Trump “a speedy recovery so that you may continue to serve your great nation.”

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POLITICS

King Mohammed VI Invites Tinubu To Morocco –

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Morocco’s monarch, King Mohammed VI has invited Nigeria’s President Bola Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu to Morocco after having a telephone conversation with the Nigerian leader. According to a statement  during a phone exchange that took place today.

A statement from the royal palace said that the two leaders discussed the development of bilateral relations between Morocco and Nigeria over the past few years.

The discussion also covered the African-Atlantic Gas Pipeline, which is a structuring project between Nigeria and Morocco that will be a strategic lever for regional integration and socio-economic development for all West African countries.

Initiated in 2016 first by King Mohammed VI and former president of Nigeria Muhammadu Buhari, the pipeline aims to promote regional integration and reinforce Africa’s energy security. Morocco is set to host over 1600 kilometers of the project, which is 5,600 kilometers long in total.

King Mohammed VI has frequently emphasized the importance of the project, reiterating Morocco’s commitment to the pipeline project with Nigeria.In November 2023, during a speech the King gave commemorating the Green March, he stressed the potential benefits that the pipeline could bring not only to Africa but also to Europe.

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“The Morocco-Nigeria gas pipeline  strategic project is part of that endeavor,” he said, referring to the purpose of the project; to promote regional integration and boost economic growth.
The pipeline is set to connect over 11 countries in the region to benefit from Nigerian gas sources.
Many countries have endorsed the project, including Senegal.

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