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Niger: letters of credence, a bone of contention between the junta, Bazoum's govt and the UN

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addresses the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2023 at United Nations headquarters.   -  
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Mary Altaffer/Copyright 2023 The AP. All rights reserved.


The military leaders who overthrew Niger's president criticised late Friday (Sep. 22) the "perfidious actions" of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, accusing him of obstructing their participation in the body's General Assembly.

Competing letters of credence are at the heart of a dispute between Niger's junta and the UN's chief.

World leaders gathered in New York have engaged in the United Nations' annual high-level General Debate.

However, the representative appointed by Niger's junta eventually didn't take the floor as planned, a development the junta criticized.

"With the complicity of France and that of two French-speaking heads of state of ECOWAS, the Secretary General of the United Nations has blundered in the exercise of his mission by obstructing Niger's full participation in the work of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly," Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane, a member of the junta, said on state television.

Bakary Yaou Sangare, who before the coup was Niger's ambassador to the UN and is now its foreign minister, was set to represent Niamey at the gathering.

"Mr Guterres not only refused to take note of the official list of delegates from Niger... but above all acceded to the fanciful request of the former minister of foreign affairs Hassoumi Massaoudou tending to revoke the permanent representative of Niger to the United Nations", the statement from the military said.

According to a diplomatic source who spoke to the AFP, the organization has received two competing requests to address the assembly; one for Bakary Yaou Sangaré and one from the toppled government.

Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN chief said that "in the event of competing credentials from a member state, the UN chief refers the matter to the body's Credentials Committee, for deliberation." Adding the Secretary-General "does not deicide" on such a matter.

The 9-member committee reports to the Assembly on the credentials of representatives.

The body has for instance has postponed several times its decisions on Burma and Afghanistan. The two countries are still represented at the UN by the ambassadors of the former governments.

Nigerien generals deposed President Bazoum in a coup on July 26 and proceeded to unveil a new government.

Bazoum's removal was condemened by regional bloc ECOWAS and strongly criticized by Western governments and global bodies, including the United Nations' secretary general.

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