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Junta Demands Three-year Transition Period, ECOWAS Delegates Meet Bazoum

The head of the military junta in Niger Republic, General Abdourahamane Tiani, on Saturday, said he would relinquish power within three years and warned that any intervention by foreign forces would not be a walk in the park.

He stated in a televised address broadcast by Tele Sahel, “Our ambition is not to confiscate power. Transition period will not exceed three years; meanwhile, political parties are urged to submit their vision for the transition within 30 days.

“There’s availability for any dialogue, provided that it takes into account the aspirations of the people of Niger. However, any intervention will open a Pandora’s Box and will not be a walk in the park.”

His warning followed the arrival of An ECOWAS delegation in the country for a final diplomatic push before deciding on military intervention against the junta.

Meanwhile, former Nigerian Head of State, Abdulsalami Abubakar, on Saturday led an ECOWAS delegation to meet with Nigerien President, Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held in his residence since he was ousted by the military on July 26.

The delegation, according to Radio France Internationale, which was also in Niamey for a final discussion with the military junta led by Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani, met with Prime Minister Ali Zeine who received them at the airport and led them to the presidential palace.

It met with Tchiani, and his team for about 90 minutes and later President Bazoum.

This was after an ECOWAS mission headed by Abubakar attempted to meet Bazoum and Tiani, earlier this month without success.

However, Tchiani later apologised when some Nigerian clerics met with him last weekend, saying he did not meet the delegation out of anger.

Speaking after the meeting with Bazoum, Abdulsalami said, “We met him and heard his side of the story. He told us what was done to him and the challenges he is facing.

“We will communicate this to ECOWAS leaders. Doors for talks are now open for a lasting solution.”

He did not go into details of the discussion with the ousted president.

ECOWAS defence officials convened on August 17 and 18, 2023 in Accra, Ghana, to finalise plans for future military action to reinstate Bazoum if continuing talks with the coup leaders failed.

An ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, said on Friday after the military chiefs’ meeting, “We are ready to go any time the order is given. D-Day is also decided.”

Meanwhile, Burkina Faso and Mali have deployed warplanes to Niger Republic following the possible armed intervention of the Economic Community of West African States to restore democracy in the country.

A Nigerien television station reported joint efforts by Mali and Burkina Faso in support of the country and the deployment of warplanes within its borders on Friday.

“Mali and Burkina Faso turned their commitments into concrete action by deploying warplanes to respond to any attack on Niger,” it said, noting the planes were Super Tucano fighter jets.

The coup leaders imprisoned Bazoum on June 26 and dissolved the elected government of Niger, a major uranium producer, and a Western ally in the fight against an Islamist insurgency.

On July 30, ECOWAS, led by Nigeria’s President, Bola Tinubu, imposed sanctions against the military junta in Niger and gave it a one-week ultimatum to restore ousted Bazoum to office.

After the one-week ultimatum expired, West African leaders met on August 10 and approved a “standby force” to reinstate elected Bazoum.

The coup plotters had ignored ECOWAS and vowed to resist foreign intervention.

Subsequently, ECOWAS defence chiefs were ordered to activate the region’s force for action to restore the civil rule in Niger with the possibility of invading the country on “D-Day”.

But the military governments in Mali and Burkina Faso said an armed intervention by ECOWAS in Niger would be met with force.

The television station said the military leaders from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger convened on Friday in the Nigerien capital, Niamey, to decide on “concrete measures” in case ECOWAS chose to “escalate a war.”

New US envoy arrives in Niger

Meanwhile, the new US Ambassador to Niger, Kathleen Fitzgibbons, on Saturday arrived in the capital, Niamey.

However, Fitzgibbons will not formally present her credentials due to the “current political crisis,” the US State Department announced.

Reuters quoted the US State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, as saying in a statement that Fitzgibbons’ arrival in Niger “does not reflect a change in our policy position but responds to the need for senior leadership of our mission at a challenging time.

“Fitzgibbons’ diplomatic focus will be to advocate for a diplomatic solution that preserves the constitutional order in Niger and for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his family, and all those unlawfully detained.”

Fitzgibbons is a career diplomat who was confirmed in the post by the US Senate in July, nearly a year after she was nominated.

Meanwhile, the ECOWAS’ military chiefs on Friday agreed to an undisclosed “D-Day” for a possible military intervention to restore democracy in Niger if diplomatic efforts failed.

They disclosed this after a two-day meeting in Accra, Ghana, where they met to stategise on military intervention.

Protest in Kano

In a related development, thousands of Niger’s junta supporters have declared interest in defence against a possible intervention by West African powers.

According to the organisers, a census was brought to a halt as they were overwhelmed by the numbers who turned up.

Reuters on Saturday said thousands of mostly young men had massed outside a stadium in Niamey hours before the scheduled start time of the event, a sign of the strong support in some quarters for the junta, which has defied international pressure to stand down after the July 26 ouster of President Bazoum.

Organisers of the Niamey recruitment drive said the event was to gather a list of people willing to lend their civilian skills in case ECOWAS attacked.

The co-organiser of the initiative, dubbed ‘The Mobilisation of Young People for the Fatherland,’ Younoussa Hima, said, “In all our calculations and our understandings, we never thought we could mobilise (this number of people).

“So, it is really difficult for us today to do this work. That was what made us halt this census.”

Also, hundreds of Nigeriens resident in Kano on Saturday staged a peaceful protest against the coup in Niger Republic and called for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum, held by the military junta.

The foreigners who staged the demonstration in Fagge Local Government Area of the state, also condemned the military coup that truncated democratic government in their country.

Mr Lawalli Mamman-Barma, leader of the protest, urged the military junta to unconditionally release Bazoum, his family and all those allegedly held by them.

“We are calling for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum’s democratic government through peaceful efforts by the ECOWAS.

“Bazoum was legitimately elected by the sovereign people of Niger,” Barma said.

He also implored ECOWAS to jettison the move to deploy troops in Niger, stressing that dialogue was the best approach to resolve the conflict.

He commended Bazoum for his efforts at developing human and capital resources, noting that Nigerien had witnessed political, economic and social development under him.

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