Lagos, Aug 13 (EFE).- The military junta that seized power in Niger on July 26 wants negotiations with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a Nigerian Muslim cleric who met with the officers told EFE Sunday.
Abdul Rahman Ahmad, chief imam of the Ansar-ud-Deen Society, was part of a delegation of Nigerian religious leaders who traveled to Niamey on Saturday for talks with the coup leader, Gen. Abdurahamane Tiani, and other members of the self-proclaimed National Council for the Safeguarding of the Homeland (CNSP).
“The Niger military junta wants to have conversations with ECOWAS to resolve the crisis the country is going through and get the sanctions they imposed lifted,” Ahmad said in a telephone conversation with EFE.
Tiani and the newly appointed prime minister, Mahamane Lamine Zeine, said that ECOWAS “misunderstood” the circumstances of the ouster of elected President Mohamed Bazoum and that the “sanctions on the country are bad,” the imam recounted.
At the first ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit in the wake of the coup, on June 30, the respective national leaders gave the junta in Niamey seven days to stand down and restore Bazoum to power or face military intervention.
They also imposed economic sanctions that included cutting the flow of electricity into Niger from Nigeria.
In a statement from the leader of the religious delegation cited Sunday in Nigerian media, Tiani apologized for having refused to meet with Nigeria’s former president, Gen. Abdulsalami Abubakar, when the latter went to Niamey as an ECOWAS emissary on Aug. 2.
Tiani said that the junta rebuffed Abubakar out of anger over the sanctions and the July 30 ultimatum.
The junta defied the ultimatum, closed the nation’s airspace and threatened an “energetic” response to any military action.
The Nigerian clerics’ trip to Niamey followed consultations with Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who currently holds the rotating chairmanship of ECOWAS.
Last Thursday, ECOWAS ordered the activation of its stand-by force ahead of a possible military intervention in Niger to reinstate Bazoum.
Yet in his remarks at the start of that summit in Abuja, Tinubu emphasized a desire to resolve the crisis peacefully.
“It is crucial that we prioritize diplomatic negotiations and dialogue as the bedrock of our approach,” he said. “We must engage all parties involved, including the coup leaders, in earnest discussions to convince them to relinquish power and reinstate President Bazoum.”
Benin, Ivory Coast, and Senegal are among ECOWAS members who say they will take part in an intervention in Niger.
But Burkina Faso and Mali – currently governed by military juntas – have stated that they would regard an attack on Niger as an attack on them.
Niger, a former French colony, is the fourth West African nation to experience a military coup since 2020, joining Mali, Guinea-Conakry, and Burkina Faso.