On Wednesday, November 22nd, Niger’s military government made a significant appeal to the West African regional court, seeking an order to lift the economic sanctions imposed by neighboring countries following the July coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. This move underscores the dire economic situation in Niger, one of the world’s poorest countries, where millions are facing increasing hardships.
The sanctions, implemented by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have had a profound impact on Niger’s society and economy. Younkaila Yaye, a lawyer representing the Nigerien government, presented a compelling case at the hearing in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital. He highlighted the widespread effects of the sanctions, noting that no sector in Niger has remained unaffected.
Following the coup led by the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP), Niger experienced a significant cut in international aid, which previously accounted for almost half of its annual budget. The country’s neighbors closed their borders, and over 70 percent of its electricity supply, sourced from Nigeria, was disrupted. Additionally, financial transactions with West African countries were suspended, assets in external banks frozen, and hundreds of millions of dollars in aid withheld.
The sanctions, the strictest yet by ECOWAS, aimed to deter coups in the Sahel region. However, they have seemingly had little effect on the ambitions of the CNSP, which has consolidated its power while the population grapples with growing challenges. The government’s lawyers detailed the sanctions’ impact: schools struggling with limited supplies, dwindling medical stocks, and businesses closing due to rising costs.
Yaye criticized ECOWAS for imposing sanctions on Niger that are harsher than those applied to other countries experiencing coups, particularly concerning financial transactions. The government requested the court to relax the sanctions pending a final judgment, but ECOWAS opposed this plea.
Francois Kanga-Penond, representing ECOWAS, argued that the current government, not being recognized under the bloc’s protocol, lacks the authority to bring such a case to court. The court has adjourned the matter until December 7.
Meanwhile, Bazoum, under house arrest since the coup, has appealed to the same court for his release and the restoration of constitutional order. A ruling on his case is expected on November 30.