West African leaders said they would deploy a standby force of troops to potentially intervene to restore democracy in Niger, where the president was deposed in a July 26 coup.
The announcement came on Thursday at an emergency meeting of the Economic Community of West African States in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, after Niger’s ruling military junta ignored the regional bloc’s deadline to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum.
“No option is taken off the table, including the use of force as a last resort. If we don’t do it, no one else will do it for us,” said Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who currently chairs ECOWAS. “I hope that through our collective efforts we can bring about a peaceful resolution as a roadmap to restoring stability and democracy in Niger. All is not lost yet.”
It wasn’t immediately clear how the ECOWAS Standby Force will be deployed. Any intervention would have to be led by Nigeria, the region’s most populous and influential country and its biggest military. But Tinubu has already faced pushback from politicians in Nigeria’s north, which shares a more than 1,000-mile border and cultural ties with Niger.
The bloc, which pledged to enforce asset freezes and travel bans on those hindering the return democracy, said it would continue to prioritize diplomacy in Niger. It’s the region’s sixth coup in the last three years and has also brought condemnation from Western countries including France and the US, which together have thousands of troops stationed in the country. Niger is a key international ally in the global fight against jihadists in the region.
Bazoum was overthrown last month by a group of soldiers led by General Abdourahamane Tiani. The junta failed to meet a deadline set by regional leaders to relinquish power by Aug. 6.
Junta members told US Under Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, who visited Niger this week, that they would kill Bazoum if there was any regional military intervention to restore his rule, the Associated Press cited two unidentified Western officials as saying.
Bazoum is being deprived of food, water and electricity at an army camp where he’s been held captive for the past two weeks, according to people familiar with the matter. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres issued a statement voicing concern over the “deplorable living conditions” being imposed on the president and his family. ECOWAS said it would hold the junta “fully and solely responsible” for Bazoum’s safety and security.
If it is ultimately successful, the coup will create a belt of military-run countries from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea, most of which are friendlier with Russia than with the West.
G-20 Grants African Union Equal Membership Status to EU
The Group of 20 nations has reached a consensus to confer permanent membership status upon the African Union.
This significant move is aimed at empowering the African continent with a stronger voice in addressing pressing global issues, including climate change and emerging-market debt.
The announcement was made by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who served as the host of the G-20 summit held in New Delhi over a two-day period.
During this historic event, President Azali Assoumani of Comoros, who currently holds the presidency of the African Union, was warmly embraced by Prime Minister Modi and offered a seat at the summit table.
This strategic decision, which has been previously reported by Bloomberg News, grants the 55-member African Union the same prestigious status enjoyed by the European Union within the Group of 20.
European Council President Charles Michel expressed his delight regarding this development in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.
He expressed eagerness for close cooperation between the African Union and the European Union within the framework of the G-20, solidifying the commitment to address global challenges collectively.
Devastating Earthquake Strikes Morocco, Leaving Over 800 Dead and Widespread Destruction
In a tragic turn of events, a rare and powerful earthquake rattled Morocco late Friday night, resulting in a devastating loss of life and extensive damage to buildings spanning from remote villages in the Atlas Mountains to the historically rich city of Marrakech.
The death toll, initially reported at over 800, is expected to rise as rescue teams grapple with the challenge of reaching the most severely affected, remote areas.
As the quake jolted people from their slumber, fear and disbelief gripped the streets, prompting individuals to flee their homes and take refuge in the open. State television broadcasts depicted the streets of Marrakech teeming with people late into the night, as they hesitated to return to buildings that may still pose a threat of instability.
Witnesses recounted harrowing experiences of the earthquake’s impact. One man, visiting a nearby apartment, described how dishes and wall hangings rained down, while people were thrown off balance and chairs were overturned. A woman shared her story of fleeing her house amid the intense vibrations, while a man cradling a child revealed he had been abruptly awakened in bed by the violent shaking.
Rescue workers, distinguishable by their reflective yellow vests, tirelessly searched through the rubble of damaged buildings, illuminated only by the darkness of the night. Heart-wrenching images captured the extent of devastation, with homes bearing gaping holes and cars nearly buried beneath the remnants of collapsed structures, as reported by local media.
Among the casualties, Marrakech’s iconic Koutoubia Mosque, dating back to the 12th century, suffered damage, though the full extent remains uncertain. Its 69-meter (226-foot) minaret, known as the “roof of Marrakech,” is a symbol of the city.
Videos shared by Moroccans also documented harm to sections of the famous red walls encircling the ancient city, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The Interior Ministry of Morocco reported at least 820 fatalities, with the majority occurring in Marrakech and five provinces near the quake’s epicenter. Also, 672 individuals sustained injuries, with 205 of them categorized as seriously hurt.
Abderrahim Ait Daoud, the head of a town near the epicenter, conveyed the devastating impact on nearby communities, with several homes either partially or completely collapsed. Access to electricity and roads was severely disrupted in some areas.
Given the vast distances between mountain villages in Al Haouz Province, the full extent of the damage is anticipated to be revealed only over time.
Al Haouz, renowned for its picturesque villages nestled in the High Atlas Mountains and Amazigh villages integrated into the mountainsides, was hit hard by the earthquake.
The Moroccan military and emergency services swiftly mobilized aid efforts in the affected areas. However, rescue operations were impeded by congested roads leading to the mountainous region around the epicenter, obstructed by rocks and debris from landslides.
Trucks laden with essential supplies, including blankets, camp cots, and lighting equipment, struggled to access the hardest-hit areas, as reported by the official news agency MAP.
On the treacherous journey from Marrakech to Al Haouz, ambulances with sirens wailing and vehicles of concerned citizens navigated around piles of red rocks that had tumbled from the mountainside, obstructing the road. Red Cross personnel worked diligently to remove a massive boulder blocking the two-lane highway.
As the day broke over Marrakech, ambulances and motorcycles resumed their urgent missions along the edges of the old city, where life slowly returned to normal. Tourists and passersby cautiously navigated roadblocks while capturing photographs of the cracked sections of the clay ochre wall, spilling fragments and dust onto the sidewalk and street.
In a show of solidarity, world leaders extended offers of assistance and condolences, with support pouring in from countries across Europe, the Middle East, and beyond. Turkey’s president, who had experienced a massive earthquake in his own country earlier in the year, was among those offering aid. France and Germany, both home to significant Moroccan-origin populations, also pledged their support. Leaders from Ukraine and Russia expressed their solidarity with the people of Morocco.
However, as of now, the Moroccan government has not formally requested international assistance, a necessary step for external rescue teams to be deployed.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the earthquake initially registered a magnitude of 6.8 at 11:11 p.m. (2211 GMT), with tremors lasting several seconds. The agency reported a magnitude-4.9 aftershock approximately 19 minutes later.
The epicenter of the earthquake was located near the town of Ighil in Al Haouz Province, approximately 70 kilometers (43.5 miles) south of Marrakech. The USGS reported a depth of 18 kilometers (11 miles) below the Earth’s surface, while Morocco’s seismic agency measured it at 11 kilometers (7 miles) deep. Shallow earthquakes like this tend to be more destructive.
Initial reports indicate that the Marrakech-Safi region, home to over 4.5 million people according to state figures, suffered severe damages and significant loss of life.
Earthquakes are relatively rare occurrences in North Africa, and Lahcen Mhanni, Head of the Seismic Monitoring and Warning Department at the National Institute of Geophysics, noted that this earthquake was the strongest ever recorded in the mountainous region.
Morocco has experienced past seismic events, such as the 1960 earthquake near Agadir, which measured 5.8 in magnitude and resulted in a devastating loss of life. This catastrophe prompted revisions to construction regulations in Morocco, although many buildings, particularly rural residences, may still not be adequately earthquake-resistant.
In 2004, another significant earthquake measuring 6.4 in magnitude struck near the Mediterranean coastal city of Al Hoceima, claiming over 600 lives.
The impact of Friday’s earthquake was felt as far away as Portugal and Algeria, according to reports from the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere and Algeria’s Civil Defense agency, responsible for emergency response.
The hearts of people around the world go out to the victims of this tragic earthquake, and the global community stands ready to assist Morocco in its time of need.
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu Secures Victory at Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal
President Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged victorious on Wednesday as the Presidential Election Petitions Tribunal (PEPT) dismissed all challenges raised by Peter Obi and the Labour Party against the outcome of the February 25th presidential election.
Led by Justice Simon Tsammani, the tribunal upheld the victory of the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate.
The central contention put forth by the Election Petition Labour was the assertion that INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) must electronically transfer presidential election results.
However, the tribunal ruled that the petitioners, Peter Obi and the Labour Party, failed to substantiate their claim.
According to the tribunal, when contesting that the winner of an election did not secure the majority of lawful votes cast, petitioners are required to provide evidence of two sets of results: the alleged lawful results and the ones they are challenging.
Furthermore, the tribunal dismissed the fraud case brought against President Tinubu by the Labour Party, asserting that it could not be proven. It was also noted that President Tinubu had been cleared of drug-related crimes in the United States.
In a significant clarification, the tribunal emphasized that Abuja is not granted special status, and securing 25% of votes in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) is not a prerequisite to becoming President.
Also, the tribunal highlighted that the Independent National Electoral Commission retains the autonomy to select its method of transmitting election results.
The tribunal’s decision rested on its evaluation of the evidence tendered by Peter Obi, which failed to establish his claim that glitches recorded by INEC, leading to the inability to upload presidential results, were deliberately manipulated to influence the outcome.
It was concluded that INEC substantially adhered to the provisions of the Electoral Act of 2022 in conducting the 2023 presidential election.
President Tinubu’s victory at the PEPT marks a significant milestone in the post-election legal process, providing clarity and validation to his presidential mandate.
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