Concern raised over health of deposed Niger president

Niger’s president is in “good spirits” despite being held in “difficult” conditions by the junta that deposed him, his doctor has said after a visit.

Mohamed Bazoum, his son and wife have been held in the basement of his palace in Niamey since the coup on 26 July.

“Living conditions remain difficult, with the electricity still cut off,” the doctor was reported as saying by French public radio station RFI.

The visit was approved amid growing international demands for his release.

RFI said it was the first outside contact the president had had since he was overthrown.

Bazoum, 63, is reported to have lost a “worrying” amount of weight, while his 20-year-old son, who has a chronic medical condition, was also reportedly denied care.

“The doctor was able to talk to the Head of State, as well as his wife and son,” RFI reported. “All are well, he said. The doctor was also able to bring them food and medicines.”

“Following the visit, President Bazoum’s family said they were relieved,” the radio station added.

The decision by the junta, led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, to bring in the family’s doctor appears to be in response to widespread condemnation of the president’s detention since the coup.

UN human rights chief Volker Turk described the conditions of the detention as inhumane, degrading and in violation of international human rights law.

His daughter Zazia, 34, who was on holiday in France during the coup, told the Guardian this week that her father, mother and brother had no clean water or electricity and were living on rice and pasta.

Fresh food was rotting in the fridge because there was no power, she said.

“The situation of my family is very difficult currently,” she told the newspaper. “They say they will keep fighting, but it’s hard to see our family in this situation and they can’t go out.”

The Niger military overthrew the democratically elected president in a coup on 26 July.

It mirrored similar military takeovers in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali, amid an Islamist insurgency and a growing Russian influence in the wider Sahel region through its mercenary group Wagner.

Despite his captivity, Bazoum was able to publish an article in The Washington Post stating that he was a hostage and that the coup would have “devastating consequences for our country, our region and the entire world”.

More than a week has passed since US President Joe Biden called for Mr Bazoum to be “immediately released”, and for the “preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy”.

That followed the expiration of a deadline by Ecowas, a power bloc of West African states, for the coup leaders to stand down.

Its threats of military intervention were not followed through, and the junta continues to ignore demands for the president’s freedom.

Ecowas said on Saturday that it hoped to send a committee to Niger to meet coup leaders. (BBC)


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