The prime minister appointed by Niger’s military regime on Thursday blasted regional grouping ECOWAS for “bad faith” over an abortive meeting largely shunned by the bloc.
“Today, apart from Togo which agreed to make the trip, ECOWAS has unfortunately not arrived,” Ali Mahaman Lamine Zeine lamented at a press conference in Niamey, attended by Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dussey.
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“There is bad faith within this organisation and probably the countries behind it,” said Zeine as Dussey refrained from comment.
Niger had hoped for an opportunity to talk through differences with fellow member states of the Economic Community of West African States.
The bloc has cold-shouldered Niamey, imposing heavy economic and financial sanctions since a July 2023 military coup that overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum.
Niger invited bloc representatives to the capital but only Togo showed up.
Dussey was in Niamey last month to discuss the length of the transition back to democracy and was due to come back with ECOWAS colleagues including Sierra Leone counterpart Timothy Kabba.
“Niger has been unjustly slapped with sanctions which have no legal basis and has done all it can so we can reach an understanding. Sadly, we have yet to get to that stage,” Zeine said.
Since the coup, ECOWAS has insisted Bazoum must be released from detention if sanctions are to be rolled back.
His son Salem, initially held with his parents, was released on January 8 and is in Togo, which has been seeking to mediate with the coup regime.
Some West African neighbours have sought gradually to soften an initial hardline position on Niger.
Neighbouring Benin, notably, lifted a temporary import suspension of goods transiting to Niger, and President Patrice Talon has indicated he wants to see a swift re-establishing of bilateral relations.
The Niger regime says it plans to hand back power to a civilian administration after three years and began 2024 with a push for regional talks ahead of a national dialogue designed to lay out the precise length of the road back to democracy.