Niger’s Coup Leader Pledges Three-Year Transition to Civilian Rule

Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani, the leader of the coup in Niger, has announced that the West African nation will undergo a transition to civilian rule within three years. This pledge comes after a meeting with mediators from the West African regional bloc Ecowas in the capital, Niamey. While Ecowas has threatened military action if talks fail, Gen Tchiani expressed his hopes to avoid war while emphasizing Niger’s readiness to defend itself against foreign intervention.

During his televised address, Gen Tchiani criticized Ecowas for imposing “illegal and inhumane” sanctions on Niger, including cutting electricity and blocking crucial imports. These sanctions have led to blackouts in major cities and a rise in food prices due to delayed supplies. The junta leader condemned the sanctions as an attempt to bring Niger to its knees and humiliate the nation. In response, thousands of men gathered in Niamey to register for a volunteer force in case of invasion.

However, Ecowas rejected the proposed three-year timeframe for the transition and urged the coup leaders to hand over power to civilians as soon as possible. Abdel-Fatau Musah, Ecowas’ commissioner for political affairs, peace, and security, emphasized that a prolonged transition was not acceptable and urged the coup leaders to focus on defending Niger’s territorial integrity. Musah indicated that military action remained a possibility.

Regional efforts to reverse the coup have received support from the United States and France, both of which have military bases in Niger as part of their efforts to combat jihadist groups in the Sahel region. However, Gen Tchiani warned that military intervention could exacerbate the Islamist insurgencies, posing a greater threat to regional stability. He argued that Niger’s defense and security forces have played a crucial role in preventing terrorist groups from destabilizing the entire region.

While Gen Tchiani did not provide specifics about the handover of power, he mentioned that the principles for the transition would be determined within 30 days during a “dialogue” hosted by the coup leaders. The delegation from Ecowas, led by former Nigerian military leader Gen Abdulsalami Abubakar and Nigeria’s most senior Muslim leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Sa’adu Abubakar III, attended the meeting.

The coup in Niger reflects similar recent takeovers in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali. Furthermore, Russia’s influence in the Sahel region is growing through its mercenary group Wagner. The outcome of the transition and the stability of Niger will have implications not only for the country but also for the wider Sahel region and its efforts to combat terrorism.

It remains essential for all parties involved to find a peaceful and timely resolution to the political crisis in Niger. The transition to civilian rule should adhere to democratic principles and respect the will of the people. Continuous dialogue and negotiations between the junta leaders, Ecowas, and other stakeholders will be crucial in achieving a sustainable solution that ensures stability and security for Niger and the region as a whole.