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Niger’s military agrees to transition terms as regional mediation nears resolution

Togo's Foreign Minister Announces Breakthrough in Talks, Set to Present Transition Plan to ECOWAS

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In a significant development towards restoring civilian rule, Niger’s ruling military has reached an agreement on the terms and conditions of a transition. Togo’s Foreign Minister, Robert Dussey, acting as a mediator, made the announcement on Thursday, expressing confidence in presenting the devised plan to the regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Dussey disclosed that the agreement, encompassing both content and timing, was established through negotiations with Niger’s junta-appointed prime minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, and foreign minister, Bakary Yaou Sangare. The imminent presentation of the transition plan to ECOWAS is a pivotal step towards resolving the political impasse in Niger.

In the aftermath of July’s coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, ECOWAS imposed stringent sanctions and suspended trade, considering military intervention as a potential measure. These punitive actions, coupled with the suspension of international finance and aid, have left Niger, already one of the world’s poorest countries, grappling with economic instability.

Niger’s military leaders, facing the economic repercussions, announced a 40 percent cut in the 2023 budget in October. The recent statement by ECOWAS leaders in Abuja emphasized that any relief from these measures is contingent on a “short transition” period.

The ECOWAS bloc designated a committee comprising the presidents of Benin, Togo, and Sierra Leone to lead negotiations with Nigerien military leaders on the commitments to be implemented during the transition. However, Niger’s suspension from all decision-making bodies of the organization remains in effect until constitutional order is re-established.

Niger’s military leaders, who have previously expressed a desire for up to three years for the transition back to civilian rule, will face continued scrutiny as mediator Dussey and his counterpart from Sierra Leone, Timothy Kabba, are set to return to Niamey in January for further negotiations. The unfolding developments carry significant implications for Niger, a Sahel nation contending with insurgencies affiliated with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. The country’s altered security cooperation with Western partners and the expulsion of French troops following the coup underscore the complex dynamics at play in the region.

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