West African bloc to negotiate transition with Niger coup leaders

Lazy eyes listen


After threats to use force to restore democratic rule failed, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Sunday that it will resume discussions with Niger’s new military government.

The decision was made at a summit of the 15-member West African regional bloc in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, on Sunday. The leaders’ conference focused on the political crisis in Niger, where soldiers deposed President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, becoming the region’s latest coup victim.

Niger’s coup leaders moved to establish a transitional government (CNSP), defying ECOWAS orders to release the detained Bazoum and restore his rule. General Abdourahamane Tchiani, Niamey’s new ruler, proposed a three-year timeline in August to return the country to civilian governance. ECOWAS rejected the plan, calling it a provocation.

On Sunday, the regional authority announced the formation of a three-member commission to work with Nigerien military authorities on “a short transition roadmap” towards “the speedy restoration of constitutional order.

The committee includes leaders from Togo, Sierra Leone, and Benin, all of which the coup leadership accuses of supporting an impending France-backed invasion of Niamey.

Economic sanctions placed by the regional bloc on Niger in reaction to the July coup will be withdrawn if negotiations between the two parties go smoothly, according to ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray in a summit communique.

“The sanctions imposed on Niger will be gradually eased by the authority.” If the CNSP fails to comply with the outcomes of the committee’s engagement, ECOWAS would sustain all sanctions, including the use of force,” Touray stated.

Niger’s military administration has frequently opposed regional sanctions, accusing ECOWAS of acting on orders from former colonial master France, which has supported the bloc’s efforts to destabilise the country. According to Niger’s military authorities, the sanctions are causing great hardship for civilians, including a lack of food and medicine supplies.

The ECOWAS Court of Justice rejected Niger’s plea to suspend the sanctions last week, stating that the military government lacked the power to make such a request.

Nigeria, which now holds the ECOWAS presidency, asked earlier this month that Niamey’s military rulers release Bazoum and allow him to travel “to a third country” before “discussing the lifting of sanctions.” The coup leaders have said they will not transfer the overthrown president to another nation.