General Abdourahamane Tchiani, the leader of the Niger Republic junta, on Saturday said that the army would hand over power to a civilian government within the next three years.
He also said that in one month’s time, the junta would form a committee to begin to work on a new constitution of the country.
Tchiani stated this in his speech in a nationwide address on national television on Saturday night.
He made the speech shortly after meeting with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) delegation led by former Nigerian Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar (rtd).
As of the time Tchiani addressed Nigeriens, the ECOWAS delegation was still in Niamey.
It is not clear how the ECOWAS leaders will react to the latest position of the junta.
Tchiani emphasized that while Niger does not want to go to war and the military leaders’ door is open for discussions, they will defend themselves if the need arises.
Meanwhile, a senior envoy of the United Nations on Saturday arrived Niamey for further talks with the military rulers.
Earlier yesterday, Abdulsalami had told journalists that the ECOWAS delegation’s meeting with the junta went well and had opened a door for further talks.
The meeting was a last-ditch diplomatic effort to reach a peaceful solution with the military rulers who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
The delegation met with Prime Minister Ali Lamine Zeine who received them at the airport.
Members of the delegation also met with the head of the junta, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, for about 90 minutes and later with ousted President Bazoum.
Abdulsalami did not go into details of the discussion with the detained president.
“We met him (Bazoum) and heard his side of the story. He told us what was done to him and the challenges he is facing. We will communicate this to ECOWAS leaders. Doors for talks are now open for a lasting solution.”
The CNN had, weeks ago, quoted Bazoum in a series of text messages to a friend as saying that he had been “deprived of all human contact” , with no one supplying him food or medicine.
Bazoum had also said he had been living without electricity, a similar situation for all Nigeriens after Nigeria cut off electric power in response to the coup.
The overthrown president said all of the perishable food he was supplied with had since gone bad, and he was now eating dry pasta and rice.
The junta had, last week, granted Bazoum access to his doctor.
Sources had earlier said Abdulsalami’s delegation could not meet with the junta.
A previous effort by the ECOWAS delegation, also led by Abdulsalami, had failed.
Tichiani had apologised when some Nigerian clerics met with him penultimate Saturday, saying he did not meet the delegation out of anger.
ECOWAS had activated its standby force and said all options were on the table after the junta had ignored the ultimatum to reinstate Bazoum.
Mali, Burkina Faso deploy warplanes
Burkina Faso and Mali yesterday deployed warplanes in Niger Republic following the threat of the ECOWAS troops that they were waiting for an order to strike.
But Burkina Faso and Mali warned that any military intervention in Niger will be considered a declaration of war against them.
In a joint statement, the governments of Burkina Faso and Mali said: “The disastrous consequences of a military intervention in Niger could destabilise the entire region,” the statement read.
The latest move of Mali and Burkina Faso was disclosed by Niger’s national television.
In a report, the television station said the military leaders from Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger convened on Friday in the Nigerien capital Niamey to decide on “concrete measures” in case ECOWAS chooses to “escalate a war.”
Most of ECOWAS’s 15 member states are prepared to contribute to the joint force, except Cape Verde and those also under military rule – Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.
The ECOWAS Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, had, on Friday after a two-day meeting of the regional bloc’s Defence Chiefs in Accra, Ghana Capital, said the troops were waiting for order to strike.
“We are ready to go any time the order is given. The D-day is also decided. We’ve already agreed and fine-tuned what will be required for the intervention. As we speak, we are still readying [a] mediation mission into the country, so we have not shut any door,” Musah had said.
Military rulers dismiss mutiny report
A top military general in Niger yesterday dismissed reports if a mutiny attempt on Tchiani by the presidential guard.
“There is no mutiny at the presidential palace.
“Also, Tchani has not left the presidential palace, he is currently with the CEDEAO delegation,” the general said.
Bazoum will not be harmed – PM
Niger’s military-appointed Prime Minister, Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine, has assured that Bazoum will not be harmed.
ECOWA Chairman and Nigerian President Bola Tinubu had, on Friday, warned of impending “grave consequences” should the military rulers allow Bazoum’s health to deteriorate in detention.
Zeine yesterday told The New York Times that, “Nothing will happen to him because we don’t have a tradition of violence in Niger.”
Niger’s new rulers have so far shown little flexibility and warned against “illegal aggression”.
Meanwhile, Radio France International reported that thousands of volunteers turned out in central Niamey on Saturday answering a call to register as civilian auxiliaries who could be mobilised to support the army.
Nigeriens protest in Kano, demand Bazoum’s release
Some Nigeriens residing in Kano State yesterday backed a non-military plan by the ECOWAS to restore democratic government to their home country.
They, however, asked the regional bloc to rescind its decision to enforce military action in Niger, stressing that dialogue is the best approach to resolve conflict.
They also called for immediate release of Bazoum, his family and all other persons in detention.
The leader of the protesters, Lawalli Mamman Barma, lauded Bazoum’s plans to enhance the economic development of the Niger Republic and develop human and capital resources in the country.
He said during Bazoum’s reign, Nigeriens witnessed political, economic and social development.
He condemned the military authorities for overthrowing Bazoum.
“We should always remember that prior to the military intervention in Niger Republic, the country under President Bazoum was experiencing growth in peace, economy and political development,” he said.