Ousted Niger President’s Lawyers Deny Escape Bid

Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum meets with the French Foreign and Armies ministers during their official visit to Niamey on July 15, 2022. (Photo by BERTRAND GUAY / AFP)

Lawyers for Niger’s deposed president dismissed charges by the country’s new military rulers that he attempted to flee, while France said its forces will leave the West African country by the end of the year as scheduled.

Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, has been kept inside his apartment in the heart of the presidential palace with his wife and son since he was deposed by the military on July 26.

Bazoum “tried to escape” with his family, two cooks, and two security agents, the military authorities stated late Thursday.

According to regime spokesman Amadou Abdramane on state television, the escape plan comprised traveling to a hideaway on the outskirts of the capital Niamey before flying helicopters “belonging to a foreign power” towards Nigeria.

The bid was unsuccessful, and “the main actors and some of the accomplices” were apprehended, he continued.

However, a legal collective representing Bazoum fiercely condemned the “fabricated accusations” leveled against him.

Bazoum, his wife, and their son are being “held incommunicado, with no access to lawyers or the outside world,” according to Mohamed Seydou Diagne, the collective’s coordinator, in a statement given to AFP in Abidjan.

On Friday, a doctor was refused access as he brought the family food, he added.

The lawyer described being held “incommunicado” as “a new red line crossed by a junta that continues to violate our client’s fundamental rights.”

Diagne stated that Bazoum’s entourage had not heard from him from the night of Wednesday to Thursday.

According to Reed Brody, another lawyer in the collective, the military rulers must show confirmation that Bazoum and his family are “alive and well” and quickly free them.

Last month, Bazoum’s lawyers said that he had filed a legal complaint against those who deposed him in a court of the Economic Community of West African States.

They also said they were taking his case to the UN Human Rights Council.

 ‘Coordinated manner’

Meanwhile, the French army stated that its 1,500 troops in Niger would withdraw by December 31, in accordance with President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement late last month.

The disengagement, which was demanded by Niger’s military rulers following the coup, began last week.

The goal “will be met,” said General Eric Ozanne, commander of France’s forces in the Sahel, at a joint press conference in Niamey with Niger’s Colonel Mamane Sani Kiaou, who announced that 282 soldiers had already left.

“Two large convoys of military vehicles that were in the northern zone” have gone, according to Ozanne, who adds that a number of convoys carrying “non-sensitive equipment” have begun to leave as well.

“The big logistical flows will really start next week,” he added, noting that 2,500 containers were due to be shipped out of the country.

The French military were stationed in Niamey and western Niger to combat fighters affiliated with the Islamic State group and Al-Qaeda, bringing fighter jets, drones, helicopters, and armored vehicles, as well as support equipment.

The first French road convoy of troops withdrawing from Niger landed in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, on Thursday, following a 10-day journey.

N’Djamena is France’s military headquarters for the whole Sahel region.

“Chad is only a transit country, it’s not a re-articulation of our operation from Niger to Chad,” said Ozanne.

French military can fly out of Chad with their most sensitive equipment. However, the majority will have to be transported by land and sea.

It is the third time in 18 months that French troops have been expelled by a former African colony, dealing a major damage to France’s influence on the continent and international standing.

Relations between Paris and Niamey have been strained since the coup, but the two military commanders struck a reassuring tone on Friday.

“Disengagement is taking place in a coordinated manner, we have the same objective,” Ozanne said.

Niger’s colonel Kiaou said: “We’ve asked them to leave, so we’d like everything to go smoothly and for them to be able to return to Chad in complete safety.”

Written by PH

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Niger Military Rulers Say Ousted President ‘Tried To Escape’

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