Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Niger coup leaders rebuff diplomatic overtures from AU, ECOWAS

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Niger’s military government has rejected the latest diplomatic mission from African countries aimed at restoring constitutional order after a July 26 coup, resisting pressure from the United States and United Nations to come to the negotiating table.

The African Union (AU) planned to send a joint mission with representatives of the UN and the West African bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) to Niger on Tuesday, but it was denied permission by the military government, which has closed Niger’s airspace, the French magazine Jeune Afrique reported.

Leaders of ECOWAS are preparing for a summit on Thursday to discuss the standoff with Niger’s coup generals, who defied a Sunday deadline to reinstate overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum.

The possibility of military intervention will be discussed, but ECOWAS has said it is a last resort.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu, who heads ECOWAS, said diplomacy is the “best way forward” for resolving the crisis in Niger, his spokesman told journalists.

The bloc had given the soldiers who seized power in Niamey on July 26 a seven-day ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum or face the potential use of force, but the coup leaders defied the warning.

Tinubu and other West African leaders “would prefer a resolution that was obtained through diplomatic means, through peaceful means, rather than any other,” spokesman Chief Ajuri Ngelale told Al Jazeera.

“That will be a position that is maintained going forward, pending any other resolution that may or may not result from the ECOWAS extraordinary summit holding on Thursday.”

The Nigerian president “has been unequivocal in his position that diplomacy is the best way forward,” he said, and “is representing the consensus position of the ECOWAS heads of state.”

However, “military intervention has not, and will not, be taken off of the table,” said Ngelale.

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