The junta has taken over Niger, which has a population of approximately 25 million residents.
The leaders of the coup in Niger, which led to the ouster of the country’s President Mohamed Bazoum, will prosecute the former leader for “high treason” in addition to undermining state security.
If convicted, Bazoum could face the death penalty.
The military regime has “gathered the necessary evidence to prosecute before competent national and international authorities the ousted president and his local and foreign accomplices for high treason and for undermining the internal and external security of Niger,” said spokesperson Col. Maj. Amadou Abdramane on state television on Aug. 13.
The prosecutorial announcement came after those involved with the coup claimed that high level West African leaders and “their international mentors” made false accusations and tried to prevent a peaceful outcome to the crisis in Niger so that they could justify military intervention.
Bazoum’s charge came after his alleged conversations with those political leaders from other West African nations.
However, the claims did not specify which West African nations Bazoum had spoken to, nor does it specify a trial date.
Although the residents of Niger democratically elected Bazoum, members of his presidential guard ousted him on July 26.
The coup leaders placed him, his wife and his son under house arrest inside the presidential compound in the capital city of Niamey.
The Associated Press reported, “International pressure is growing on the junta to release and reinstate Bazoum. Immediately after the coup, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS gave the regime seven days to return him to power and threatened military force if it did not happen, but that deadline came and went with no action from either side.
“Last week, ECOWAS ordered the deployment of a ‘standby’ force, but it’s still unclear when or if it would enter the country. The African Union Peace and Security Council [met on Aug. 14] to discuss Niger’s crisis and could overrule the decision if it felt that wider peace and security on the continent was threatened by an intervention.”
Before the accusations of treason, a junta (a military or political group that rules a country after taking power by force) communications team member told journalists that the coup leaders had approved talks with ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), which is supposedly going to take place in the coming days.
On Aug. 13, a group of Islamic scholars from Nigeria said the regime is open to talks with ECOWAS after they had discussions with the junta.
Previously, the regime had barred ECOWAS delegates from entering Niger after ECOWAS had expressed interest in having discussions with the coup leaders.
The Associated Press reported that the new willingness to talk could have come from pressure from ECOWAS, which might include economic sanctions and travel sanctions.
That lack of revenue could adversely impact that impoverished nation, which has approximately 25 million residents.
“Let’s see what these negotiations actually look like, because it’s also in the junta’s benefit to in the least entertain talks,” said Aneliese Bernard, a former U.S. State Department official who specialized in African affairs. “That doesn’t mean they’ll be serious about them.”
Bernard currently works as director of Strategic Stabilization Advisory, a group that provides risk advisory assessment.
However, the Associated Press added, “But while talk of dialogue ensues, so does military mobilization. In a memo from Senegal’s security forces dated Aug. 11, seen by The Associated Press, it ordered the ‘regroupment’ from bases in Senegal on (Aug. 14) as part of its contribution to the ECOWAS mission in Niger. It was unclear what exactly was ordered to move, or where it was going.
“In the weeks since the coup, the junta has entrenched itself in power, appointing a new government and leveraging anti-French sentiment against its former colonial ruler to shore up support among the population, creating a tense environment for locals who oppose the junta as well as many foreigners and journalists.”
The Press House, a Nigerian group that protects journalists, said that activists who support the junta have threatened and intimidated local and international members of the media.
The Nigerian organization said that journalists in Niger operate in a “very difficult climate.”
Many see a free press as essential for a democracy because they hold leaders accountable, no matter which side of the political aisle they come from.
Countries with state-run media get news that is approved by the current political leaders.
News, or perspectives, that the government disapproves often does not reach the masses.
Those who report things not approved by these governments can face harsh punishment for reporting the news fairly.
The Associated Press added, “Since the coup, jihadi violence is also rising. Niger was seen by Western nations as one of the last democratic countries in the Sahel region it could partner with to beat back growing jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. France and the United States and other European countries have poured hundreds of millions of dollars into propping up Niger’s military. Since the coup, France and the United States have suspended military operations.”
Fighters believed to be from the Islamic State group ambushed Nigerian security forces on Aug. 13.
Last week, an al-Qaida group named JNIM conducted another attack.
Journalist Wassim Nasr said, “This is due to the halting of cooperation and the military being busy with consolidating their coup in Niamey.”
Nasr added that it is also due to the lack of communications with some jihadi groups, which had been established during the presidency of Bazoum.