Niger debacle worsens as ex-rebel leader launches anti-coup movt

…vows to combat coupists to ensure Bazoum’s reinstatement

A former Nigerien rebel leader and politician, Rhissa Ag Boula, has launched a movement to oppose and fight against the military junta that seized power after the July 26 coup.

The development is first sign of internal resistance to military rule in the Sahel country.

Ag Boula, in a statement on Wednesday, said the main objective of his new Council of Resistance for the Republic is to fight for the reinstatement of the overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum who has been in detention at his residence since the military takeover.

“Niger is the victim of a tragedy orchestrated by people charged with protecting it,” the rebel leader’s statement said.

The announcement comes on the heels of the stalling of diplomatic efforts to reverse the coup as the military junta spurned the latest diplomatic mission from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States.

On Tuesday, Niger’s coup leaders denied entry to the African and United Nations envoys, resisting pressure to negotiate before a summit on Thursday at which heads of state from the ECOWAS will discuss the possible use of force.

Ag Boula in his statement expressed support for ECOWAS and any other international actors seeking to restore constitutional order in Niger.

He added that his group would make itself available to the sub-regional body for any useful purpose.

According to another CRR member, several Nigerien political figures have joined the group, but afraid to make their allegiance public for safety reasons.

Recall that Boula played a leading role in the uprisings by Tuaregs, a nomadic ethnic group in Niger’s desert north, in the 1990s and 2000s. He was among former rebels integrated into government under Bazoum and his predecessor, Mahamadou Issoufou.

Although the extent of support for the CRR is unclear, Boula’s statement will create apprehension among Niger’s coup leaders, given his influence among Tuaregs who control commerce and politics in much of the vast North of the country.

Getting the support of the Tuaregs is crucial for the military junta to secure the control of the country beyond its capital, Niamey.

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