In the midst of confusion over the political situation in Niger Republic, a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) led by former Nigeria’s Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, has arrived Niamey, the country’s capital city, to negotiate with the military junta.
Abdulsalami is reportedly accompanied by a retired Brigadier General, Sultan of Sokoto Muhammadu Abubakar, and Alieu Touray, president of the ECOWAS commission.
The decision, according to Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, was in line with the resolution reached at the end of the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS held last weekend in Abuja.
Similarly, President Tinubu also sent a separate delegation led by Ambassador Babagana Kingibe to engage the leaders of Libya and Algeria on the Niger crisis.
Briefing the two delegations, President Tinubu charged them to engage all stakeholders robustly with a view to doing whatever it takes to ensure a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger for the purposes of African peace and development rather than a move to adopt the geopolitical positions of other nations.
“We don’t want to hold briefs for anybody. Our concern is democracy and the peace of the region,” the president said.
Speaking after the meeting,
General Abubakar said the delegation would meet the coup leaders in Niger to present the demands of the ECOWAS leadership.
The leaders of the two missions expressed optimism on the outcome of the assignments.
A group of soldiers had appeared on the West African country’s national television late Wednesday last week, a few hours after President Mohamed Bazoum was detained.
Reading from a statement, spokesman of the mutineers, Colonel Amadou Abdramane, in company of nine other officers wearing fatigues, said the defence and security forces had decided to “put an end to the regime that you know due to the deteriorating security situation and bad governance.”
He said the country’s borders were closed and all institutions of the republic suspended, and announced a national curfew, just as the soldiers warned against any foreign intervention.
The international community, including ECOWAS, African Union(AU), the United States and France, have warned the coup plotters to retrace their steps and return the country to democracy or face their wrath.
Also, the UN said its secretary general, António Guterres, also spoke to Bazoum and offered his “full support and solidarity”.
Guterres had called “on all actors involved to exercise restraint and to ensure the protection of constitutional order.”
But the military leaders spoke tough and warned that they would not tolerate any foreign intervention in their domestic affairs, threatening to protect their fatherland with all means possible.
Also on Sunday, the ECOWAS slammed sanctions on Niger and warned that it may use force as it gave the junta a week to reinstate Bazoum.
An ECOWAS official also told AFP that a delegation from the bloc, led by former Nigerian leader, Abdulsalami Abubakar, would visit Niger Republic Wednesday.
The coup has worried Western countries struggling to contain a jihadist insurgency that flared in northern Mali in 2012, advanced into Niger and Burkina Faso three years later and now overshadowed fragile states on the Gulf of Guinea.
Countless numbers of civilians, troops and police have been killed across the region, many in ruthless massacres, while around 2.2 million people in Burkina Faso alone have fled their homes. The economic damage has been devastating, Bloomberg Reports.
Niger re-opens Algeria,Burkina Faso, Mali, other borders
The Niger military government has also announced the re-opening of Niger’s borders with Algeria, Burkina Faso, Libya, Mali and Chad. However, the land border with Nigeria remains closed, according to the BBC.
The new military government in Niger is led by Abdourahmane Tiani, former head of ousted Bazoum’s presidential guard.
Tiani had detained Bazoum in his palace on account of bad governance and later declared himself head of state.
As part of efforts to remedy the situation, ECOWAS sent President Patrice Talon of Benin and the Chadian Leader Mahamat Déby, to Niger to speak with the coup plotters — but the actions did not yield any success.
Following a meeting on Sunday, ECOWAS announced a number of sanctions, including freezing “all commercial and financial transactions” between member states and Niger.
The organisation also threatened to resort to the use of force if Bazoum is not reinstated within a week from the bloc’s last meeting.
No order on Niger – DHQ.
In a related development, the top echelon of the Nigerian military has debunked reports in some sections of the media (not Blueprint) that “the Armed Forces of Nigeria (AFN) is assembling its forces for military action in the Republic of Niger.”
A statement by Acting Director Defence Information Brigadier General Tukur Gusau, said the Nigerian military was yet to receive any order from the appropriate authority to commence military action against the military Junta in Niger.
“Military option was the last option to be taken in case every other option fails to reverse the situation and return the Government of Republic of Niger to constitutional order.
“At the moment, the ECOWAS Committee of Chiefs of Defence Staff is currently holding an extraordinary meeting in Abuja to discuss the political situation in the Republic of Niger and submit their plans to the committee of Heads of States and Government of ECOWAS for consideration.
“In conclusion, the Armed Forces of Nigeria cannot proceed on any operation in any of the member states of ECOWAS without the mandate from the Authority of Heads of States and Government,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has called for the immediate release of President Bazoum.
Biden, in a statement to commemorate the 63rd anniversary of Niger’s independence Thursday, said: “I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released, and for the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy.”
“In this critical moment, the United States stands with the people of Niger to honor our decades-long partnership rooted in shared democratic values and support for civilian-led governance,” the US president further said.
He said: “The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders. They have expressed their will through free and fair elections — and that must be respected.” (Blueprint)