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African state lifts ban on imports targeting sanctioned neighbor

RT – BENIN has lifted sanctions imposed at the behest of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that had prevented imported goods from transiting through the autonomous port of Cotonou (PAC) to landlocked Niger. The measure was taken following the ouster of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum in a recent coup.

Bart Johan Van Eenoo, director of Benin’s Port Authority of Cotonou, announced the decision on Wednesday, five months after a group of soldiers seized power in Niamey on July 26. The coup leaders have accused the civilian government of failing to combat Islamist insurgents in the Sahel region despite the presence of Western troops.

“The measure relating to the suspension of imported goods destined for Niger at the port of Cotonou has been lifted,” Eenoo said in a statement cited by AFP. The action was taken “in view of the substantial improvement in the operational conditions for handling goods at the port of Cotonou, in particular the reduction in the rate of congestion,” he added.

The West African regional bloc restricted financial transactions and closed entry into the uranium-rich nation from its other member states in order to force the new rulers to restore democratic order. Trucks carrying goods, including food, have been left stranded at Benin’s closed border with Niger as a result of the restrictions.

Niger’s military government has repeatedly denounced regional sanctions, accusing ECOWAS of acting at the behest of former colonial power France, which has backed the bloc’s efforts to undo the coup. The restrictions, according to Niamey’s new authorities, are causing severe hardship among citizens, including a shortage of food and medicinal supplies.

Earlier this month, the ECOWAS Court of Justice rejected a request by the coup leader to suspend the sanctions, ruling that the military government lacked the authority to make such a demand. Days after the court decision, the 15-member authority said it would lift sanctions only if the military rulers cooperated with a diplomatic committee on a short-term plan toward a “speedy” restoration of constitutional order.

The bloc had previously threatened to use force against the coup leaders, with several of Niger’s neighbors, including Benin and Nigeria, expressing willingness to contribute troops to the Paris-backed armed mission.

In September, Niamey terminated a military cooperation agreement with Benin, accusing the Beninese government of authorizing the deployment of troops, mercenaries, and weapons for a planned cross-border invasion of Niger by France and ECOWAS.

Last week, Benin President Patrice Talon called for relations between his country and neighboring Niger to be “quickly” restored, declaring that there is “a time to condemn, a time to demand, and a time to take stock.”

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