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WEST AFRICA: ECOWAS DELEGATION FAILS TO MEET THE NIGER JUNTA LEADER ABDOURAHMANE TIANI

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A delegation from west African regional bloc ECOWAS arrived in Niger on Thursday evening for talks with coup leader, General Abdourahmane Tiani.

Led by former Nigerian head of state Abdulsalami Abubakar, the delegation was initially scheduled to present the demands of the ECOWAS leaders.

The dignitaries left a few hours later without having met the head of the junta or overthrown President Mohamed Bazoum.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, the bloc’s chairman, urged representatives to do whatever it takes to ensure a conclusive and amicable resolution of the situation in Niger.

On Thursday evening, the putschists in Niger announced they would retaliate immediately in the event of aggression or attempted aggression against their country by ECOWAS.

Thus far, mandates of the American, French, Nigerian and Togolese ambassadors have been ended, as coup leaders announced it was scrapping military pacts made between Niamey and Paris. 

A timely coup?

Amid Niger’s Independence Day festivities, Thursday, many young men gathered to demonstrate in favour of the military coup against democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum with Russian flags and anti-french slogans. 

These demonstrations coincided with a speech from coup leader General Abdourahmane Tiani, who decried the threat of interference by ECOWAS and possibly western powers. 

The harnessing of anti-west or, more particularly, anti-french sentiment has become a key component of the narrative conveyed by coup leaders, though it is highly probable that Tiana and his fellow military men moved against President Mohamed Bazoum for self-serving reasons. President Bazoum had announced a reshuffle of the presidential guard, removing the general as head of the guard. 

Nevertheless, these events have shed a light on wider discontents and underlying tensions. Amongst which, the lingering sense of hostility towards France. Many attribute said hostility to France’s colonial record in the west African country, though the main issue is economical. 

According to Alex Vines, head of the Africa programme at the think-tank Chatham house, the large amounts of military assistance and aid that have been channelled towards Niger from western powers have done very little to visibly benefit the vast majority of impoverished youth for whom, the west’s support towards Bazoum is just another display of the usual power dynamics : elites disregarding the populations needs.

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