Niger Coup: ECOWAS rejects three-year timeframe

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Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani,Niger Coup Leaderis buying time

The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has rejected the three-year transition plan proposed by the Niger Coup leader.

“ECOWAS is not accepting any prolonged transition again in the region. They have to get ready to hand over in the shortest possible time. The military aspect is very much on,” Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, told the BBC.

He added: “The earlier they give power back to civilians and concentrate on their primary responsibility, which is defending the territorial integrity of Niger, the better for them.”

The US and France, which both have military bases in Niger, are backing efforts to support ECOWAS to reverse the coup. The  American and French bases are part of efforts to tackle jihadist groups in the wider Sahel region.

The junta leader, Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani, who headed the presidential guard before overthrowing the government on 26 July, said the military intervention could only lead to increased Islamist insurgencies in the region.

“They seem ignorant to the fact that it is largely thanks to the professionalism and valour of the defence and security forces of Niger that Niger has remained a barrier preventing terrorist hordes from destabilizing the whole region,” he said.

The coup is similar to recent takeovers in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali.

Gen Tchiani did not give details about the handover of power, which he says will happen within three years, but said the principles for the transition will be discussed at a “dialogue” organized by the coup leaders.

On Saturday, an ECOWAS delegation led by former Nigerian military leader Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and also included Nigeria’s most senior Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III, met with the coup leaders to settle the issue with diplomacy,

The Sultan wields enormous influence in Niger, part of which used to be in the Sokoto Caliphate, a powerful kingdom before colonial rule.

Saturday’s meeting was the first between leaders of the junta and ECOWAS.

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