Niger: As Junta holds onto control, hopes for dialogue fade

niger as junta holds onto control hopes for dialogue fade – The News Mill

ANI Photo | Niger: As Junta holds onto control, hopes for dialogue fade

The new military leaders of Niger have rejected diplomatic efforts by the United States, the United Nations, and regional organisations to resolve a problem brought on by a coup in the West African country. This has dimmed expectations that civilian authority will be reinstated soon, The New York Times reported.
Tuesday’s delegation of envoys from the United Nations, the African Union, and the 15-nation regional group — ECOWAS — was barred entry by the military that took control of Niger last month.
A day earlier, Victoria Nuland, the acting US deputy secretary of state, went unannounced to Niger, although she only stayed for conversations with one of the coup leaders, which she called “extremely frank and at times quite difficult.”
The general she spoke with was regarded as a close US military ally and had received his training there. But according to Nuland, he gave no guarantees that civilian rule or the reinstatement of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum. She was also refused a meeting with Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the junta, according to The New York Times.
The situation in Niger has threatened to derail years of Western security and aid assistance to one of the world’s poorest countries and a key ally in a region stricken by widespread instability that has been the site of seven military takeovers in less than three years.
Niger, a landlocked nation of 25 million people, hosts at least 2,600 Western troops, including 1,100 Americans, who have trained the country’s military and used it as a base to monitor Islamist insurgencies, The New York Times reported.
The future of that partnership now appears to be in doubt as the generals, who seized power in Niger, have severed military ties with France, which has 1,500 troops in the country and said little about whether they plan to continue cooperating with the United States.
Nuland said shortly before departing from Niger that she had offered several options to a coup leader to resolve the stalemate and maintain the relationship with the United States. But, she added, “I would not say that we were in any way taken up on that offer.”
She told reporters that she was denied a meeting with Bazoum, who has been detained in his private residence since July 26, and General Tchiani, who removed him from power, The New York Times reported.
Diplomats and officials from West Africa said they still were hoping for a peaceful resolution to the crisis, even after an ultimatum from ECOWAS for the coup leaders to relinquish power expired on Sunday.
ECOWAS, which has threatened military action against the coup leaders, is scheduled to meet for an extraordinary summit on Thursday. It has frozen financial transactions with Niger and closed borders between the country and its neighbours. Niger’s junta closed the country’s airspace on Sunday evening, The New York Times reported.
The streets of Niamey, the capital, remained calm on Tuesday despite soaring food prices and blackouts that have become more frequent since Nigeria, which supplies more than two-thirds of Niger’s electricity, suspended its supply after the coup.
Hundreds of young people have posted themselves at the city’s roundabouts at night to check for suspicious cars and weapons, heeding a call by the junta to defend the country, The New York Times reported.
Bazoum remained locked in his private residence with his wife and one of his sons, who is in his early 20s. The mutineers have cut electricity and water to the house, said a friend and adviser to Bazoum who requested anonymity to discuss the president’s situation.
However, the junta in Niger said it had replaced him with new Prime Minister Lamine Zen, a civilian and former Finance minister.
The junta also named a new head to the country’s presidential guard, the unit tasked with protecting Bazoum but which detained him last month. General Tchiani, who led the unit at the time of the coup, now appears to be in charge of the country, The New York Times reported.
Nearly two weeks after the coup, the military leaders have not announced a timeline for a transition or when elections might take place.
It was unclear how Nuland was able to reach Niamey despite the airspace closure. The coup leader she met with was Gen. Moussa Salaou Barmou, the former head of Niger’s special forces. Once a close partner of the United States, he was named chief of staff of Niger’s military shortly after the coup.
General Barmou was trained at Fort Benning and the National Defense University in Washington. American military commanders who worked with General Barmou expressed shock that he had joined the coup’s senior ranks.
“I’m disappointed and surprised,” said J. Marcus Hicks, a retired two-star Air Force general who headed American Special Operations forces in Africa, adding, “Barmou was one of the most competent and capable senior African military leaders I dealt with.”
Nuland added that she had warned Barmou and other coup leaders against partnering with the Wagner paramilitary group from Russia, as neighbouring Mali has done, The New York Times reported.
“The people who have taken this action here understand very well the risks to their sovereignty when Wagner is invited in,” she said.

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