Niger coup leader proposes a three-year transition of power

Niger’s coup leader has proposed a three-year transition of power after meeting a delegation of West African leaders and warned that any attack on the country would “not be a walk in the park” for those involved.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani, speaking on national television late on Saturday, gave no details on the potential transition, saying only that the principles for the move would be decided within 30 days at a dialogue to be hosted by the ruling military council.

“Neither the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland nor the people of Niger want war, and remain open to dialogue,” he said after his first meeting with delegates from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Nigerien capital, Niamey.

“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,” he said.

ECOWAS has imposed severe sanctions on Niger following the July 26 coup and has ordered the deployment of a “standby force” to restore constitutional rule in the country. The bloc said on Friday that an undisclosed “D-Day” had been agreed for possible military intervention and that 11 of its 15 member states had agreed to commit troops to the operation.

In his 12-minute speech, Tchiani claimed ECOWAS was “getting ready to attack Niger by setting up an occupying army in collaboration with a foreign army” and denounced what he called “illegal” and “inhuman” sanctions imposed by the regional bloc.

“I reaffirm here that our ambition is not to confiscate power. I also reaffirm our readiness to engage in any dialogue, as long as it takes into account the orientations desired by the proud and resilient people of Niger,” he added.

ECOWAS has taken a harder stance on Niger’s July 26 coup, the region’s seventh in three years, than it has on previous ones in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

The bloc – despite threatening military intervention – is also pursuing diplomatic ways to reverse the power grab in Niger, a country that has strategic importance for regional and global powers because of its uranium and oil reserves as well as its role as a hub for foreign troops involved in the fight against armed groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).