A delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) yesterday launched into a last ditch meeting with the coupists in Niger Republic to stave off the planned military intervention in that country by ECOWAS.
The delegation which was led by former Nigeria military head of state,General Abdulsalami Abubakar met with the junta leader, General Abdourahamane Tchiani.
It was also allowed access to the detained President Mohammed Bazoum who is being held along with his family in the basement of the Presidential palace in Niamey.
Yesterday’s meeting came amidst reports of the delivery of war planes to the junta by Mali and Burkina Faso to confront the troops being readied by the ECOWAS to restore democracy in that country.
The donation of the Super Tucano jets is said to be a show of solidarity by the military regimes in Bamako and Ouagadougou with the embattled soldiers in Niger.
Read Also: ECOWAS/Niger military conflict can destabilise West Africa — PRP
“Mali and Burkina Faso turned their commitments into concrete action by deploying warplanes to respond to any attack on Niger,” the television station said on Friday.
Burkina Faso and Mali had issued a statement of support for the Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani regime against the planned ECOWAS military operation to alter the course of the coup in Niger.
They warned that any intervention would be seen as a declaration of war against Burkina Faso and Mali.
The Embraer EMB 314 Super Tucano which is also named ALX or A-29, is a Brazilian turboprop light attack aircraft designed and built by Embraer as a development of the Embraer EMB 312 Tucano.
According to Wikipedia,the A-29 Super Tucano “carries a wide variety of weapons, including precision-guided munitions, and was designed to be a low-cost system operated in low-threat environments.
Supporters of the junta have also been enlisting volunteers for non-military roles in defence against a possible intervention by West African powers.
Abubakar with whom was the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Saad Abubakar was joined by United Nations Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Leonardo Santos Simao, to facilitate a resolution to the ongoing crisis.
The delegation was received at the Niamey airport by the junta’s Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine.
ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, Abdel-Fatau Musa told TV3 Ghana that the discussions would be closely monitored and the military option would be contemplated should dialogue fail.
“We will see how discussions unfold. If we realize that discussions are going nowhere, I can assure you that we are not going to engage in endless dialogue [or] the dialogue of the deaf,” he said.
He denied suggestions that ECOWAS seemed to favour war to settle the impasse in Niger.
He said: “We are not the ones shutting the door on them. It is rather they shut the door on us,” he said.
Musa was part of last week’s two-day extraordinary meeting of the ECOWAS military chiefs in Accra where the senior soldiers said they were only waiting for ECOWAS to give them the green light to move into Niger.
Tchiani to ECOWAS: Invading Niger won’t be a walk in the park
A defiant Tchiani in a broadcast last night warned ECOWAS to have a rethink over its planned attack on his country.
“If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park some people seem to think,” he said, accusing the regional body of planning to invade Niger with the aid of a foreign power.
He did not name the foreign country.
He labeled the sanctions imposed on Niger by ECOWAS as illegal and inhuman.
He said he had no ambition to t stay in office beyond three years and announced a 30-day period of what he called national dialogue to draw up a framework to lay the foundation for “a new constitutional life.”
No harm ‘ll befall Bazoum, says junta’s PM
The ECOWAS delegation was granted access to Bazoum who the junta had threatened to kill should the planned ECOWAS military intervention materialize.
Abubakar told reporters after meeting Bazoum that “we met him and heard his side of the story. He told us what was done to him and the challenges he is facing. We will communicate this to ECOWAS leaders. Doors for talks are now open for a lasting solution.”
Prime Minister Zeine who was present at the meeting with Bazoum had earlier been reported by the New York Times to have said that no harm would befall him.
“Nothing will happen to him, because we don’t have a tradition of violence in Niger,” the paper quoted the PM as saying.
Zeine also claimed that the junta had no intention of collaborating with Russia, or the Kremlin-backed mercenaries of the Wagner group.
Supporters of the junta yesterday suspended the recruitment of volunteers for non-military roles in defence against the planned military intervention by ECOWAS.
Co-organiser of the initiative called “The Mobilisation of Young People for the Fatherland,” Younoussa Hima, said they had been overwhelmed by the massive response of the youths who thronged a stadium in the capital, Niamey, hours before the scheduled start-time of the event .
Hima said they never thought they could mobilize so large a number of youths.
Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger discuss response to ECOWAS military threat
Representatives of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger met separately yesterday in Niamey to discuss a joint defence strategy in response to the planned ECOWAS military intervention.
The meeting was to decide on “concrete measures” in case ECOWAS chooses to “escalate a war,” according to local media reports .
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency yesterday quoted the Defense Minister of Burkina Faso, Kassim Coulibaly, as threatening that his country would withdraw its membership of ECOWAS “ because it considers the organization’s policy towards Niger illogical.”
He added: “We expect aggression. In any case, our head of state said: We are ready for aggression, (and) we support Niger. Burkina Faso is even ready to withdraw from ECOWAS because it considers the organization’s policy towards Niger illogical.”
US Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon arrives in Niger
Niamey also received a new guest yesterday in the US Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon.
The State Department said FitzGibbon was taking up her post as Washington and partners continue to grapple with the military takeover in that country.
“Ambassador Kathleen FitzGibbon has traveled to Niamey to lead our diplomatic mission in Niger and bolster efforts to help resolve the political crisis at this critical time. As a career senior diplomat with significant experience specializing in West Africa, she is uniquely positioned to lead U.S. government efforts in support of the American community and the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy,” State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller, said in a statement.
State Department deputy spokesperson, Vedant Patel, said Wednesday that FitzGibbon, who was confirmed by the Senate in late July after a lengthy wait, “is going there to lead the mission during a critical time and to support the American community and to coordinate on the US Government’s efforts.”
“Her arrival does not reflect a change in our position, and we continue to advocate for a diplomatic solution that respects the constitutional order in Niger, and for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his family,” Patel said. “We remain committed to working with African partners to promote security, stability, and democratic governance in the Sahel, and Ambassador FitzGibbon will be an integral piece of that when she gets to post in Niamey.”
It is unclear, however, what sort of diplomatic engagements FitzGibbon will be able to hold amid the state of uncertainty in Niger.
Nigeriens protest in Kano, urge reinstatement of President Bazoum
Hundreds of Nigeriens resident in Kano yesterday staged a peaceful protest against the coup in their home country and called for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum.
The protesters condemned the military coup that truncated democratic government in their country.
Mr Lawalli Mamman-Barma, leader of the protest, urged the military junta to unconditionally release Bazoum, his family and all those allegedly held by them.
He said:“We are calling for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum’s democratic government through peaceful efforts by the ECOWAS.
“ Bazoum was legitimately elected by the sovereign people of Niger.”
He also implored ECOWAS to jettison the move to deploy troops in Niger, stressing that dialogue was the best approach to resolve the conflict.
He commended Bazoum for his efforts at developing human and capital resources, noting that Nigeriens had witnessed political, economic and social development under him.
“We should always remember that prior to the military intervention in Niger Republic, the country under President Bazoum experienced peace as well as economic and political development, Barma added.
Military conflict can destabilize West Africa — PRP
The People’s Redemption Party (PRP) appealed to ECOWAS to avoid military intervention in Niger as such could lead to the spread of violence across the sub-region.
National Chairman of the party, Alhaji Falalu Bello, said in a statement that Nigeria and Niger share a lot in common in terms of economics, cultures and geography.
“The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) considers it pertinent to urge President Bola Tinubu and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) not to go to war with the Niger Republic,” the party said.
“The PRP views war as not in the interest of Nigeria, Niger and ECOWAS. War would destabilize the entire Sahelian region and could lead to the spread of violence and instability to other countries in the West African sub-region.
“There exists an excellent neighbourliness and good relationship between the two countries that are closely linked economically, culturally and geographically, and it will be tragic if these relationships for centuries are spoilt.
“Niger Republic depends on Nigeria for trade and investment, and Nigeria depends on Niger for some products. A war would disrupt this economic interdependence and harm both countries.
“The PRP notes that the recent skirmishes between Nigeria and the Niger Republics are avoidable and should be resolved through dialogue and diplomacy.”
It asked the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Bola Tinubu of Nigeria, to do everything to resolve the crisis through dialogue and diplomacy.