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African Union Hosts Niger Talks As Regime Sends Mixed Signals

(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – The African Union (AU) on Monday held talks on the Niger crisis as the country’s post-coup rulers sounded defiance yet also pointed to diplomacy for a potential solution.

“AU’s Peace & Security Council meets to receive an update on the evolution of the situation in Niger and the efforts to address it,” the pan-African body said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

The meeting was taking place at AU headquarters in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, it said.

Those attending include AU Commission chief Moussa Faki Mahamat as well as representatives from Niger and the West African bloc ECOWAS, it said.

President Mohamed Bazoum, whose election in 2021 was a landmark in the country’s troubled history, was toppled on July 26 by members of his presidential guard.

His ouster unleashed a shockwave around West Africa, where Mali and Burkina Faso — likewise battered by a jihadist insurgency — have also suffered military takeovers.

Seeking to stop the cascade, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped sanctions on Niger and last week approved deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order.”

But uncertainties hang over any intervention — from operational feasibility to internal divisions within ECOWAS — and the bloc also says it wants a peaceful outcome.

On July 30, it issued a seven-day ultimatum to restore Bazoum or face the potential use of force, but the deadline expired without action.

Mixed signals have emerged from the regime as the crisis nears the end of its third week.

At the weekend, the coup leaders said they were open to a diplomatic push after their chief, General Abdourahamane Tiani, met with Nigerian religious mediators.

Those talks came after a scheduled meeting of ECOWAS military chiefs in Ghana was postponed for “technical reasons.”

But Niger’s rulers also declared they had gathered sufficient evidence to prosecute Bazoum for “high treason and undermining internal and external security.”

Bazoum, 63, and his family have been held at the president’s official residence since the coup, with international concern mounting over his conditions in detention.

On Monday, the military-appointed prime minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, a civilian, declared Niger would thwart ECOWAS’s sanctions threat.

“We think that even though it is an unfair challenge that has been imposed on us, we should be able to overcome it. And we will overcome it,” he told German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

The bloc has severed financial transactions and electricity supplies and closed borders with landlocked Niger, blocking much-needed imports to one of the world’s poorest countries.

The military leaders on Sunday said the sanctions make it hard for people to access medicines, food and electricity and describe the punishment as “illegal, inhumane and humiliating.”

But Zeine also stressed the importance of Niger’s ties with neighbouring Nigeria as well as the West African bloc.

“We have a great interest in preserving this important and historical relationship and also in having ECOWAS work on purely economic issues first,” he said.

Short URL: https://www.africanexaminer.com/?p=90093

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