HomeTop StoriesDiplomacy 'best way forward' in Niger, but strength still on the table:...

Diplomacy ‘best way forward’ in Niger, but strength still on the table: Nigeria

Bazoum became Niger’s fifth leader to be impeached since independence in 1960 (Issouf SANOGO)

Nigeria’s president is not ruling out military intervention in neighboring Niger after the president was ousted in a coup, but believes diplomacy is the “best way forward” to resolve the crisis, his spokesman said on Tuesday.

Bola Tinubu, also head of the West African bloc ECOWAS, weighed in for the first time since the soldiers behind the coup in Niger defied the bloc’s Sunday deadline to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum or possibly use force.

Meanwhile, attempts by ECOWAS and the United States to negotiate with Niger’s new rulers have made no progress ahead of a crisis summit in the Nigerian capital Abuja on Thursday.

“No options have been taken off the table,” said Tinubu’s spokesman Ajuri Ngelale, adding that Tinubu and other West African leaders favor a diplomatic solution.

The United States said it still had hopes of overturning the coup, but was “realistic” a day after a top US envoy appeared to be making no progress during an unannounced visit.

“We are hopeful that the situation will be reversed, but at the same time we are making it clear, including in direct talks with junta leaders themselves, what the consequences will be if we don’t return to constitutional order,” said Matthew Miller, spokesman for the State Department. . reporters.

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– Path to dialog –

ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West African States – imposed trade and financial sanctions on Niger after rebel soldiers toppled Bazoum.

The bloc also gave Niger a seven-day ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum or possibly use force.

A source close to ECOWAS said on Monday that military intervention was not immediately considered and that the path to dialogue still seemed open.

The bloc had tried on Tuesday to send a delegation to Niamey ahead of the crisis summit to be held in Abuja on Thursday.

But the soldiers who seized power in Niamey on July 26 blocked the mission, saying the public “anger” caused by the bloc’s sanctions meant the delegation’s security could be compromised.

In a statement, ECOWAS confirmed that the visit of a joint delegation of African Union and United Nations officials had been denied by Niger’s new military rulers.

– American Envoy –

ECOWAS has been struggling since 2020 with a series of coups that have now affected four of its 15 members.

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In Mali, Burkina Faso and now Niger, all takeovers have been fueled by jihadist insurgencies that have claimed many thousands of lives, displaced at least two million people from their homes and dealt crippling blows to some of the world’s poorest economies.

On Monday, veteran US envoy Victoria Nuland met Niger’s military rulers for more than two hours, but came away empty-handed.

She described her conversations as “extremely candid and quite difficult at times”.

She said she offered coup leaders “a number of options” to end the crisis and restore relations with the United States, which, like other Western countries, has suspended aid.

“I wouldn’t say we took that offer up in any way,” she told reporters before leaving.

Niger’s new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani, did not attend the meeting and Nuland was unable to see Bazoum, who has been detained since July 26.

– Warnings –

The military leaders in Mali and Burkina Faso have expressed solidarity with Niger, saying any military intervention would be seen as a “declaration of war” against them.

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Algeria, which shares a long land border with Niger, has also warned of a military incursion, which President Abdelmadjid Tebboune said would pose a “direct threat” to his country.

Bazoum, 63, was celebrated in 2021 after winning elections that heralded the first-ever peaceful transfer of power in Niger.

He took over from a country that had suffered four previous coups since independence, and survived two coup attempts before being overthrown himself.

His support was a key factor in France’s decision last year to refocus its anti-jihadist mission in the Sahel on Niger, following its withdrawal from Mali and Burkina Faso.

France has 1,500 troops in Niger and the United States has 1,000 personnel, most of whom are deployed to two major airbases.

Mali and Burkina Faso sent letters to the United Nations and the African Union on Tuesday, calling on them to avoid “military intervention against Niger” as the security and humanitarian consequences of such action would be “unforeseeable”.


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