The military junta in Niger Republic has nominated Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbe to act as a facilitator with the international community, including the West African bloc ECOWAS which has imposed sanctions since a coup.
General Salifou Mody, the minister of defence for Niger, met with Gnassingbe in the capital of Togo, Lome, and stated that the junta also wanted Togo to guarantee a deal for the withdrawal of French troops from the Sahel.
Africa Today News, New York recalls that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had earlier imposed tight financial sanctions and closed border trade with Niger in a bid to restore constitutional order.
Mody, who called the sanctions ‘cynical’, said Togo had allowed space for the Niger junta to communicate when other avenues were shut.
Though an ECOWAS member, Togo has taken some bilateral initiatives to engage with Niger’s military leadership.
‘We have never closed our country to friends. It is always important to remind our partners that Niger is open, even if arrangements have been made so that we cannot address our partners,’ Mody told reporters after the meeting.
‘We also asked the President of the Republic of Togo to be a facilitator, to be able to facilitate this dialogue with our various partners.’
France has already started pulling out its 1,500 troops from Niger after the junta demanded they leave following the July 28 ouster of President Mohamed Bazoum.
Mody said the withdrawal was going ahead with some French ‘air assets’ being prepared for departure.
‘We demanded that Togo, our brother country, for all the contribution that this country continues to give us, be our guarantor in this agreement. The withdrawal is progressing and everything is going normally,’ he said.
Togo’s foreign minister Robert Dussey said the country was ready to assist in dialogue.
“Togo always opposes any takeover by force, Togo opposes any coup d’etat,” he said. “But in the particular situation of your country, Togo understands and Togo wants to help you.”
The current head of ECOWAS, Nigeria’s Bola Ahmed Tinubu, stated that he was taking caution when visiting Niger due to worries for the safety of the country’s expelled president, Bazoum.
Africa Today News, New York reports that the ECOWAS has urged for the prompt restoration of constitutional order, while the junta has demanded a three-year transition back to civilian administration. Back channels, however, were still active, according to Tinubu.
Niger is battling two jihadist insurgencies — a spillover in its southeast from a long conflict in neighbouring Nigeria, and an offensive in the west by militants crossing from Mali and Burkina Faso.