The Economic Community of West African States has rejected a plan by Niger’s coup leaders to relinquish power within three years.
The three-year transition plan proposed by Niger’s military junta was unacceptable, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, peace and security, Abdel-Fatau Musah, told a Nigerian television channel Monday.
He said the regional bloc ECOWAS insists on the return of constitutional order as quickly as possible, and that the junta proposed the transition plan as a distraction to remain in power for longer.
“In some other countries under military regime in West Africa, they had about three years and already they’re negotiating with their population to have another 18 months,” Musah said. “What legitimacy do they have to already begin with three years? And we know it is not going to end there.”
In a televised address Saturday, Niger’s junta leader Abdourahamane Tchiani said the country would return to civilian rule within three years. He spoke soon after meeting with an ECOWAS delegation led by Nigeria’s former head of state, Abdulsalam Abubakar.
Tchiani urged political parties to submit their vision for the transition within 30 days.
“Our ambition is not to confiscate power,” he said. “Transition period will not exceed three years.”
It was the first time the junta had met with ECOWAS representatives since the July 26 coup, raising hopes of continued dialogue.
But Musah said it is the pressure from ECOWAS sanctions and threat of military intervention that is making the junta more compliant.
“We’re no longer going to get into drawn out haggling with people who have used their power against their own constitution.”
Idayat Hassan, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, an Abuja-based pro-democracy think tank, said ECOWAS must not give in to the transition plan by Niger’s coup leaders.
“If ECOWAS allows for this three-year transition, it is going to be following in the footsteps of Mali, and in Burkina Faso and in Guinea,” she said.
Soldiers of the presidential guard who deposed President Mohammed Bazoum last month continue to hold him and his family hostage.
ECOWAS recently activated a standby force to intervene in Niger if negotiations fail. Defense chiefs who met in Accra last week said they are ready to take action as soon as an order is given.