Niger regime leader 'open to explore diplomacy': mediators

2023-08-13 20:19:22

Bangkok Post

KANO (NIGERIA) - The leader of Niger's military regime is ready to consider a diplomatic solution to its stand-off with West African bloc ECOWAS, the head of a religious delegation of mediators said Sunday.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has not ruled out using force against the army officers who toppled Niger's elected leader Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

ECOWAS has approved the deployment of a "standby force to restore constitutional order" in Niger as soon as possible but remains committed to finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Coup leader General Abdourahamane Tiani "said their doors were open to explore diplomacy and peace in resolving the matter", said Sheikh Bala Lau, a day after his Nigerian Muslim delegation held talks in the capital Niamey.

Tiani "claimed the coup was well intended" and that the plotters "struck to starve off an imminent threat that would have affected" Nigeria as well as Niger, according to Lau's statement.

But Tiani said it was "painful" that ECOWAS issued an ultimatum to restore Bazoum without hearing "their side of the matter", the statement added.

Tiani also apologised for not according sufficient attention to an ECOWAS delegation to Niger led by former Nigerian leader Abdulsalami Abubakar, saying the treatment was due to anger over the ultimatum.

The Muslim leaders visited Niamey with the blessing of Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is also head of ECOWAS.

Tinubu has adopted a firm stance against the coup, the sixth to hit an ECOWAS member state since 2020.

ECOWAS has severed financial transactions and electricity supplies and closed borders with landlocked Niger, blocking much-needed imports to one of the world's poorest countries.

On July 30, it issued a seven-day ultimatum to restore Bazoum or face the potential use of force, but the deadline expired without the new rulers backing down.

The bloc scrapped a Saturday crisis meeting on the coup due in Ghana's capital Accra for "technical reasons".

- Military delegation in Guinea -

The prospect of a military intervention to reinstate Bazoum has divided ECOWAS members and drawn warnings from foreign powers including Russia and Algeria.

Niger's neighbours Mali and Burkina Faso, also ruled by military governments who seized power in coups, have said an intervention would be tantamount to a declaration of war on them.

Representatives of Niger's regime travelled to military-ruled Guinea, in a fresh bid by the coup leaders to gain support against international pressure.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya met the Niger delegation headed by General Moussa Salaou Barmou in the capital Conakry on Saturday, Guinean public television reported.

The delegation asked Guinea's military authorities for "increased support to deal with future challenges", with Barmou thanking the country for backing Niger's new governing military council.

Bazoum, 63, and his family have been held at the president's official Niamey residence since the coup.

A member of his entourage said he saw his doctor on Saturday, after concern grew for his detention conditions that were reportedly deteriorating.

2023-08-13 News