Niger’s chosen prime minister expects deal with ECOWAS

Niger’s chosen prime minister expects deal with ECOWAS

Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, expressed optimism about reaching an agreement with the West African bloc ECOWAS in the coming days. ECOWAS had threatened to use force to restore civilian rule in Niger after a coup in July. The prime minister indicated that ongoing contacts with ECOWAS were progressing, offering hope for a resolution.

French Forces Withdrawal Underway

Amid strained relations between Niger and France following the military takeover, Zeine mentioned that efforts were underway for a swift withdrawal of French forces from Niger. Ties had deteriorated further after France stood by the ousted democratically-elected president, Mohamed Bazoum. The relationship between the two nations had soured, with France refusing to acknowledge the coup leaders as the legitimate government.

Timeline for Returning to Civilian Rule

A crucial aspect of the crisis is determining a timeline for the return to civilian rule. Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who chairs ECOWAS, suggested a nine-month transition period, drawing parallels with Nigeria’s past experience. Algeria proposed a six-month transition, while the military rulers had previously mentioned a three-year handback period. The timeline remains a key point of discussion in resolving the crisis.

ECOWAS’ Hard Line

ECOWAS has adopted a stern stance towards Niger following a series of coups in the region since 2020. Similar military takeovers occurred in Mali and Burkina Faso, where armed forces faced mounting losses due to persistent jihadist insurgency. Guinea also witnessed a coup in 2021, with the ousting of President Alpha Conde, sparking constitutional debates.

Efforts to Withdraw French Troops

Niger seeks a swift withdrawal of French forces while preserving cooperation. Tensions escalated between Niger and France after France supported the ousted president. France maintained its military presence despite announcements canceling agreements and threats to expel the French ambassador. Approximately 1,500 French troops are stationed in Niger, primarily at an air base near the capital, Niamey.

Flight Ban Lifted

Niger lifted the flight ban it imposed in response to ECOWAS’ threat on August 6. The decision allows the resumption of air travel, although specific authorizations were granted during the ban period. Air France announced its intention to resume flights over Nigerien territory

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