In response to calls for a peaceful resolution from Russia and the United States, the junta in Niger announced on Tuesday that it was open to negotiations to end the regional crisis brought on by the military coup last month.
President Mohamed Bazoum, who was jailed since July 26, has been invited back into office by democratic African states and Western powers, but the military chiefs have rejected all attempts at settlement.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the primary regional organisation, has threatened to launch a military intervention if diplomacy fails, therefore West African army leaders will gather on Thursday and Friday in Ghana to prepare for this.
Any military action may further unsettle the impoverished Sahel, where an uprising by organisations affiliated with al Qaeda and the Islamic State has driven millions of people from their homes over the past ten years and exacerbated a famine crisis.
Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine, appointed prime minister by the military last week, said, “We are in a process of transition. We have explained the ins and outs, reiterated our willingness to remain open and to talk to all parties, but we have insisted on the need for the country to be independent,” he said this after visiting Mahamat Deby, the president of Chad, who led his own coup in 2021.
International countries with strategic vested interests in the region have been drawn in by the coup and its aftermath.
Tuesday’s conversation between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Mali’s military chief over the recent coup in neighbouring Niger is sure to worry Western countries that worry about a rise in Russian influence in the Sahel region of West Africa. The country’s interim President Assimi Goita, on social media X (formerly Twitter), said that Putin “stressed the importance of a peaceful resolution of the situation for a more stable Sahel.”
The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden, according to Pentagon spokesman Sabrina Singh, is dedicated to a diplomatic settlement and views Niger as a partner it cannot afford to lose. Although Singh refrained from using the word “coup,” he did say that it “certainly looks like an attempted coup.”
According to Nigerian President and ECOWAS Chairman Bola Tinubu, ECOWAS is working with the regional group ECCAS in Central Africa to undo the coup in Niger and restore constitutional order.
“I understand the fear of our people on any form of military action. We are working to keep the sanctions in place and we are following them to the letter,” he said in a statement.
Since a series of coups began, Russian influence in West Africa has increased while that of the West has decreased. Military authorities in Mali and Burkina Faso expelled French soldiers and forged closer ties with Moscow.
The army administration in Mali also hired Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, who have been charged with killing civilians and other serious human rights violations.
Niger remained a Western ally under Bazoum. Under the terms of agreements with the now-deposed civilian government, the United States, France, Germany, and Italy all have soldiers stationed there.
Putin has called for the restoration of constitutional law in Niger, and Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of Wagner, has praised the army seizure and promised his assistance.
Since the coup, there seems to have been a rise in sympathy for Russia in Niger, as seen by the junta supporters displaying Russian flags at demonstrations and urging France to end its involvement.
The coup leaders in Niger have cancelled a number of military agreements with France, but Paris dismissed this by stating it did not recognise them.