Prime Minister of Niger calls for international support to restore democracy

Nigerien Prime Minister Ouhoumoudou Mahamadou, stranded abroad since last week’s coup, appealed to the international community on Tuesday to help his country restore democracy.

Speaking to the AP news agency in Paris, Mahamadou said Niger should be seen as vital to strengthening democracy in West Africa and protecting countries in the south “against the spread of terrorism.”

The West African regional association ECOWAS on Sunday announced economic and tourism sanctions on Niger and said it could use force if the coup leaders refused to restore the country for the democratically elected President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, within a week.

Mahamadou said the sanctions would be a “disaster” for Niger.

On Tuesday, France, Italy and Spain announced evacuations from Niger for their citizens and other European citizens.

The West’s last democratic partners against West African extremists was Mahamadou’s administration “Niger is a security-critical country for the rest of Africa and the rest of the world,” he said.

The United States and France have sent troops and hundreds of millions of dollars in military and humanitarian aid to Niger in recent years.

Mahamadou warned that the current unrest in the country “could eventually facilitate… the development of insecurity involving jihadists”.

“Because if the armed forces are preoccupied with issues other than ensuring the security of the country, you can understand that this will allow the jihadists to advance on the ground.”

However, the Prime Minister said he wanted to remain “optimistic” about Niger’s ability to regain democracy and avoid ECOWAS military intervention.

He said he remained in touch with Bazoum and that the president was “definitely a hostage”, but that he was also “happy” and “ready to deal with the situation”.

Mahamadou said he believed the coup leaders would heed ECOWAS’s call to restore Bazoum rather than face the threat of military intervention because they were “patriots”.

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