Niger bans UN agencies and NGOs from military ‘operation zones’

The military leaders in Niger who seized power in a July coup have barred United Nations agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other international agencies from working in its military “operation zones,” the Interior Ministry announced on Thursday.

The directive comes in response to the current security situation and the ongoing operational engagement of the Nigerien Armed Forces,” the ministry said in a statement aired on national television and reported by local media.

All activities and or movements [of the organizations] in the zones of operations are temporarily suspended,” the statement said, without specifying the affected regions.

The UN pledged days after the military takeover to “remain engaged and committed” amid the crisis in Niger, where it said 3.3 million people are food insecure.

In July, UN Acting Resident Coordinator Nicole Kouassi expressed concern about the temporary suspension of the organization’s humanitarian air service flights after the coup leaders closed Niger’s airspace.

Last month, Niger’s new military rulers announced the cancelation of a number of military agreements with France, which has some 1,500 troops stationed in Niamey to help fight jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel region.

However, Paris has refused to withdraw its forces, arguing that the cooperation agreements were signed with the “legitimate authorities” of its former colony. The French government has repeatedly denied Niger’s new rulers’ legitimacy and has declined to comply with their directives, including a recent demand that the French ambassador leave Niamey within 48 hours.

The military leaders are also at odds with the West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, which has taken a tough stance against the the coup in Niamey, threatening armed action if its desired diplomatic efforts to restore civilian rule to the country fail.

In a statement issued on Thursday, the regional authority reiterated its call for the military leaders to restore democratic order in the uranium-rich landlocked country, emphasizing its opposition to a proposed three-year transition period.

The demand of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government is clear: the military authorities in Niger must restore constitutional order immediately by liberating and reinstating H.E. Excellency President Mohamed Bazoum,” it added.

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