First photo of ousted Niger president emerges, negotiations for future underway

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

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

Mr Déby, who also met the coup leaders, is spearheading mediation efforts after West African leaders gave Niger’s military seven days to give up power.

The junta accused the ousted government of authorising France to carry out an attack to try to free Mr Bazoum.

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 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. On Sunday they gave the junta a week to reinstate the elected president, who has been confined to the presidential palace in Niamey.

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,” 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.

On Monday, Col Amadou Abdramane, one of the coup leaders, said the toppled government had authorised France, Niger’s former colonial power, to attack the presidential palace to try to free Mr Bazoum.

France did not confirm or deny the claim. In a statement quoted by Reuters news agency, the French foreign ministry said the only authority it recognised in Niger was President Bazoum’s.

France and the US both have military bases in Niger.

Also on Monday, Mr Bazoum’s party said six of its senior figures were among 130 of its members arrested by the junta since Sunday.

The six include four members of the ousted cabinet, a former minister and the party leader, the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS) said.

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”.

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.

Source: BBC 

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