Fri. Jun 21st, 2024

Niger’s ousted president has been seen for the first time since the military detained him after staging a coup last week.

Mohamed Bazoum met Chad’s leader Mahamat Idriss Déby Itno in Niger’s capital, Niamey.

Mr Déby is spearheading mediation efforts to end the crisis after West African leaders gave the junta a seven-day deadline to give up power or risk military action.

He also met the head of the junta.

Gen Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the presidential guards unit, declared himself Niger’s new ruler on Friday.

Mr Déby said his mediation effort was aimed at finding a “peaceful solution to the crisis which is shaking” Niger, which borders Chad.

He did not give further details, but his office released a photo of him sitting next to a smiling Mr Bazoum.

Mr Déby was himself put in power by the army after his father was killed fighting rebel forces in 2021.

He was sent to Niger by leaders of the West African regional bloc, Ecowas, who said on Sunday that the junta had a week to return power to the elected president.

The regional bloc would “take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order” if its demands were not met.

“Such measures may include the use of force,” and military chiefs were to meet “immediately” to plan for an intervention, a statement added.

The junta has not commented on the demands, but it has vowed to defend Niger from any “aggression” by regional or Western powers. It has accused former colonial power France of planning military intervention.

France and the US both have military bases in Niger.

The junta also announced that it is suspending the export of uranium and gold to France with immediate effect. Niger is the world’s seventh largest producer of Uranium.

The coup has prompted concern that Niger, a key Western ally in the fight against jihadist groups in West Africa, could pivot towards Russia.

Neighbouring Burkina Faso and Mali have both moved away from France, and towards Russia, after staging their own coups in recent years.

On Sunday, protesters outside the French embassy in Niamey chanted “Long live Russia”, “Long live Putin” and “Down with France”, AFP news agency reports.

They also set fire to the walls of the embassy compound.

France would not tolerate any attack on its interests in Niger, and would respond in an “immediate and intractable manner”, President Emmanuel Macron’s office said in a statement.

BBC

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