West African leaders meet amid coup scare


West African leaders meet amid coup scare

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West African leaders will hold a summit later this month as the region struggles to reverse a series of coups and contain jihadist conflicts in the Sahel.

The Economic Community of the West African States will meet in Nigeria’s capital Abuja on December 10, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara’s office said in a statement after talks with ECOWAS chiefs.

The leaders last met in August for talks on Niger after a July 26 coup there which overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum. He has since been sequestered in his residence in Niamey.

ECOWAS heads of state threatened military intervention as a last resort to restore Bazoum and imposed heavy economic sanctions on Niger, now ruled by a military regime led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.

But the regime has dug in and demanded it may need up to three years for a transition to civilian rule.

Nigerian President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who is current chair of ECOWAS, says back-channel talks are still ongoing with the Niger regime.

“I would not say that we have given up on the military option. We have suspended it, waiting for the sanctions to produce results,” said Abdel-Fatau Musah, ECOWAS commissioner for political affairs, in a published interview Thursday on the Jeune Afrique website.

“Many things are negotiable, but under no circumstances will we accept a three-year transition.”

But he said attempts to meet with the coup leaders had failed as the regime refused.

ECOWAS commission president Omar Alieu Touray said the bloc could not recognise the military government.

“President Bazoum remains as the president until the leadership of ECOWAS reaches an agreement on the situation,” he told the ECOWAS parliament in Abuja on Thursday.

Of the bloc’s 15 member countries, four have been led since 2020 by soldiers resulting from coups: Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Guinea.

All have since been suspended from the organisation, and will not be represented at the Abuja summit.

The first three, struggling with jihadist violence, have grouped together within an Alliance of Sahel States.

A failed coup attempt that left 21 dead took place Sunday in Sierra Leone, another member of ECOWAS, according to senior officials in the country.