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UN Sends Mixed Signals on Niger, Which Is Unlikely to Speak at the General Assembly


Nigerien diplomats in the UN General Assembly, Sept. 20, 2023. Competing requests as to who will officially represent the country, which underwent a coup in July, will have to be decided by the UN Credentials Committee, but it is not planning to meet until October. PassBlue was unable to identify the diplomats above. JOHN PENNEY/PASSBLUE

The United Nations Secretariat has received requests from both the ousted government of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held hostage in Niger’s capital Niamey by the country’s military since it staged a coup d’état on July 26, 2023, and from the coup-led regime of Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, to allow their respective representatives to speak at the world leaders’ annual gathering of the UN General Assembly. It ends on Sept. 26.

Although the UN Secretariat does not formally recognize a government per se, it usually takes its cues from the Security Council, which condemned the coup in Niger, as did the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), the European Union, France and the United States, among others.

For now, it appears that no representative of Niger will speak at the opening debate of the 78th session of the General Assembly, given that the credentials of neither Niger camp will be officially decided on by the General Assembly’s Credentials Committee until October, when it meets for the first time in its new formulation. The committee’s members are reshuffled for every new Assembly session, and it is not slated to meet until after the annual opening debate, numerous UN officials told PassBlue. The Niger question will be deferred for now.

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[UPDATE, Sept. 23: The military regime of Niger posted a communiqué on Twitter/X on Sept. 22 saying that it “strongly rejects and denounces” the “perfidious” actions of UN Secretary-General António Guterres’s “interference” in the “internal affairs” of Niger and “obstructing the full participation” of the country in the 78th session of the General Assembly. Yet the message does not call for the UN to list the current ambassador in the roster of national speakers.]

[UPDATE, Oct. 6: PassBlue learned recently that the Gabonese delegation also encountered problems with its accreditation for its prime minister to be designated a speaking slot during UNGA78. Gabon underwent a military coup on Aug. 30, 2023, and according to sources close to the situation, the UN protocol office had not released the necessary passes by the opening day of the “high-level” week, beginning on Sept. 18, to enable the Gabonese delegation that flew to New York City to participate in the annual opening debate. Unlike Niger, where the country underwent a coup in late July and the former democratic government and current military regime contested the country’s seat in the UN, Gabon had no national contestation by its transitional — coup-led — authorities. Originally, its head of state was scheduled to speak on Sept. 21, but that slot was dropped in the UN’s revised provisional list of speakers of Sept. 1, possibly because the former president, Ali Bongo, had been ousted by his country’s military by then. After a phone call with the UN secretary-general, however, the necessary UN passes were procured by the Gabonese delegation, our source told PassBlue, and its interim prime minister, Raymond Ndong Sima, spoke on Sept. 22]

The new committee members consist of the US, Russia, China, Andorra, Grenada, Nigeria, Solomon Islands, Suriname and Togo. The UN’s Office of Legal Affairs recommends to the president of the General Assembly which countries should be on the committee, and although Russia is violating the UN Charter in its war in Ukraine, it and the US and China remain standing members. Moreover, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu chairs Ecowas, and in that role he has threatened military action by the regional group to force the Niger junta to restore the country to democracy.

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On July 14, the first provisional list of speakers for the UNGA78, as it’s known, was published, showing that the head of state for Niger was scheduled to take the Assembly Hall rostrum on Sept. 21; the information was repeated in the next revision, on Sept. 1. Since then, however, Niger has not been listed in updated schedules. Yet a sudden change is possible, given that the UNGA high-level session has three days left.

Despite not accrediting Bazoum’s government’s representatives to speak at UNGA78, the UN Secretariat processed a request from Bazoum’s foreign minister, Hassoumi Massaoudou, to terminate the functions of Bakary Yaou Sangaré as Niger’s ambassador to the UN, Stéphanie Tremblay, associate spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, told PassBlue by email on Sept. 20. She didn’t say when the request was sent. (The UN identified the Nigerien envoy as Yaou Sangaré Bakary, but General Tchiani’s cabinet lists his name as above.)

Bakary Yaou Sangaré was photographed by the UN as the permanent representative of Niger on March 15, 2023.

“The Secretariat received a letter signed by the Foreign Minister of Niger informing of the end of functions of Mr. Bakary as Permanent Representative of Niger to the United Nations. This letter was processed in accordance with the applicable procedures,” Tremblay said.

By processing the letter, the Secretariat appears to have indirectly recognized Bazoum’s government as the legitimate leader of Niger, in alignment with the stance of Ecowas and the African Union. The latter has also demanded that General Tchiani return Niger to constitutional order and release Bazoum from house arrest. (The general’s Twitter account was active until two days ago, but now it no longer exists.)

Bazoum appointed Sangaré to the role of ambassador to the UN in March 2023, but General Tchiani, who is a former head of the country’s presidential guard, has named Sangaré as his foreign minister while keeping him as the UN envoy. Sangaré is a former Nigerien ambassador to Cuba.

Tremblay of the UN confirmed that its policy regarding Niger’s junta is guided by the Security Council’s condemnation of the coup that was pronounced on two days after the military overthrow. (Russia, as a permanent member of the Council, agreed to the statement.)

“The Secretariat remains guided by the Security Council Press Statement of 28 July 2023 (SC/15372), pending any further decisions by the principal political organs of the United Nations,” Tremblay added.

The Council statement reads: “The members of the Security Council strongly condemned the efforts to unconstitutionally change the legitimate Government of the Republic of Niger on 26 July 2023.”

Tremblay also told PassBlue: “The UN Secretariat is in receipt of two separate requests in the name of Niger to participate in the high-level week of the 78th session of the General Assembly. The communications name different individuals as the head of delegation. These communications have been brought to the attention of the President of the General Assembly and the members of the Credentials Committee.”

A top UN official who requested anonymity because the person is not authorized to speak publicly, told PassBlue that since the Credentials Committee will not meet in time to decide who to accredit for the UNGA opening debate, no one is likely to speak for Niger.

The Niger mission to the UN repeatedly told PassBlue that it was unclear who would speak at the General Assembly, and the Washington embassy of Niger did not answer its phone.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on Niger's dueling requests for UN representation?

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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UN Sends Mixed Signals on Niger, Which Is Unlikely to Speak at the General Assembly
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Ponle Sueez Akand*
Ponle Sueez Akand*
8 months ago

The United Nations has to cosider the foundamentals. Was the Government of Bazzoum legitimate? was it liable for gross abuses of fundamental human rights?

What are the options open to the United Nations, with Niger being a sovereign country? Is necessary for the United Nations to assume jurisdiction over adjudication of the competing claims to recognition by the United Nations. International jurisprudence experts have to be deferred to by the United Nations or the International Court of Justice

The United Nations has to speed up on the implementation of the agenda of the Sustainable Development Goals. I have both sets of theoretical and practical ideas as solutions to the inhibition of the implementation of the agenda.

Ponle Sueez Akande

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