Niger: Macron demands Junta’s exit, ECOWAS orders fresh talks

Deborah Tolu-Kolawole and Gift Habib

French President Emmanuel Macron, on Thursday, demanded the release of Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum who was detained on July 26, 2023, in a military coup led by the former commander of Niger’s presidential guard, Abdourahamane Tchiani.

Macron, also called for a return to democratic order in Niger, a former French colony whose elected leadership was toppled in a military coup in July.

Leaders in the Economic Community of West African States bloc said that they would keep all options on the table for a peaceful resolution to the crisis and ordered the activation of an ECOWAS standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger.

Former colonial ruler France and the European Union suspended security cooperation and financial aid to Niger following the coup, while the United States warned that its aid could also be at stake.

The coup came as a major blow to relations between France and Niger.

France has soldiers stationed in several parts of West Africa as part of anti-terror operations.

The French president said, “If we hadn’t got involved with operations Serval and then Barkhane, there’s no doubt Mali and Burkina Faso will no longer exist, and I’m not sure myself if Niger will still exist.”

 He said African states had requested the French operations which successfully prevented the formation of caliphates a few thousand kilometres from France’s borders.

Macron noted, “When there is a coup and when the fight against terrorism is not the priority of the new rulers, France does not feel called to remain engaged.”

“This is indeed dramatic for the countries concerned.”

Meanwhile, the President, Bola Tinubu on Thursday told the delegation of Islamic Ulamas who visited him in the presidential villa to return back to the Niger Republic and continue dialogue with the military junta.

The minister of information and national orientation, Muhammed Idris told State House correspondent after the meeting.

“The Council of Ulammas has returned to the President for the second time, to give a report on their ongoing dialogue with the military junta and other stakeholders in Niger Republic.

“Mr President has listened to them and they’ll continue this dialogue. Mr President is interested in exploring peaceful options in this, but nothing is off the table.

“He has asked the Ulammas to continue with their dialogue and they will continue to do that.”

On the next line of action, Idris said, “The next line of action is that dialogue will continue. Mr President as the head of ECOWAS is interested in pursuing a resolution of this crisis, but like I said, nothing is off the table.’’

 James Heappey, the United Kingdom’s minister of state for the armed forces, said the UK recognised Nigeria’s diplomatic mediation efforts to peacefully restore democracy in its northern neighbour.

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