On Thursday, December 7th, the West African Court delivered a significant ruling against Niger’s junta, dismissing its request to lift sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The court’s decision came after the military junta in Niger sought relief from the punitive measures enacted following its coup in July, which saw the ousting of President Mohamed Bazoum.
The sanctions, which included border closures, suspension of financial transactions, and freezing of Niger’s assets, were a response to what ECOWAS deemed an unconstitutional change of government. Nigeria, a neighboring country, further intensified the junta’s challenges by cutting off electricity supplies, which accounted for 70% of Niger’s power.
In its ruling, the ECOWAS Court of Justice, based in Abuja, Nigeria, declared the junta unconstitutional and unrecognized as a member state of the regional bloc. The court stated that the junta lacked the authority to make such a request for lifting sanctions. This decision underscores the regional commitment to constitutional governance and the rejection of military takeovers.
The junta had argued that the sanctions were causing severe hardship for Niger’s citizens, affecting essential supplies of food and medicine. However, the court’s stance reflects a broader regional perspective on the importance of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law.
The ruling complicates efforts to resolve the political crisis in Niger and return the country to civilian rule. The junta, which appointed a prime minister and proposed a three-year timeline for returning power to civilians, faces increased pressure from ECOWAS, which has rejected this timeline.
Togolese President Faure Gnassingbé, acting as a mediator between Niger and ECOWAS, visited Niger ahead of a summit to discuss the coup and other political crises in West Africa. The summit’s outcomes and discussions are likely to have significant implications for the future of Niger and the region’s approach to governance and constitutional order.
The situation in Niger remains a focal point for West African politics, with the international community closely monitoring developments. The ECOWAS Court’s ruling not only addresses the immediate issue of the junta’s appeal but also sets a precedent for how regional bodies respond to unconstitutional changes in government.