A delegation representing the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) traveled to Niger’s capital Niamey on Saturday to meet with the military junta that deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum in a July 26 coup.
A source told The Associated Press that the two-hour discussion yielded no progress as the two sides remain far apart on the key issue. ECOWAS is demanding the reinstatement of Bazoum, but the junta, led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, is not backing down in the face of harsh sanctions and threats of military intervention.
After the meeting on Saturday, Tchiani appeared on state TV and laid out a roadmap for the country that he said would restore civilian rule within three years. He said the details of the plan would be worked out within the next 30 days.
The day before the meeting in Niamey, ECOWAS military chiefs concluded two days of talks in Ghana, where they discussed plans for military intervention. Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, said the bloc was ready to intervene when given the order.
“We are ready to go any time the order is given,” Musah said. “The D-day is also decided. We’ve already agreed and fine-tuned what will be required for the intervention.”
Tchiani said Saturday that Niger did not want war and warned against military intervention. “Neither the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland nor the people of Niger want war, and remain open to dialogue,” he said. “But let us be clear: If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park some people seem to think.”
According to AP, Tchiani is fearful of France launching an attack, something he expressed in the meeting with ECOWAS officials. France, Niger’s former colonial ruler, has about 1,500 troops in the country and has strongly backed ECOWAS threats.
France is reportedly at odds with the US over Washington’s engagement with the junta, which included Acting Deputy Secretary of State Victoria Nuland meeting with coup leaders in Niamey. “Perhaps in order to avoid bloodshed, the US was quickly keen to talk to the putschists. Maybe the better reaction should’ve been to put some conditions or guarantees before opening those channels,” an unnamed French official told POLITICO.
The US has about 1,100 troops in Niger and a major drone base in the country, which serves as a hub for US military operations in the Sahel region. The Biden administration is considering ways to maintain its presence in Niger, including cooperation with the junta. At the same time, the US has also backed ECOWAS threats and is demanding the reinstatement of Bazoum.