The Slippery Slope

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) rejected a proposal by Niger’s military junta to return to civilian rule within three years, a move that prolongs the ongoing regional crisis as the bloc mulls military intervention, the Voice of America reported Tuesday.

The regional bloc’s dismissal came a few days after Niger’s junta leader Abdourahamane Tchiani said that the military government would relinquish power within three years.

He added that the junta’s ambition “is not to confiscate power” and urged Nigerien political parties to submit a vision for the transition within a month.

The Nigerien leader met with an ECOWAS delegation last week, with the bloc urging the return to democracy in Niger and the release of ousted President Mohamed Bazoum. The president has been held captive since the July 26 coup.

But on Tuesday, ECOWAS officials called for an immediate return to constitutional order, warning that the junta’s proposal was an attempt by the military leaders to stay in power.

The organization imposed a series of sanctions on Niger following the coup. It also threatened military action and recently activated a standby force to intervene in the West African country if negotiations fail.

Analysts cautioned that ECOWAS shouldn’t trust the junta’s transition plans because they are similar to proposals from the military governments in Mali and Burkina Faso, which came to power following recent coups in those countries.

Meanwhile, the African Union (AU) suspended Niger from the continental bloc Tuesday and ordered the return of constitutional order, Al Jazeera added.

The AU also called on its members and the international community to refrain from taking any action that could legitimize Niger’s military government, and warned against external interference – including the involvement of private military companies.

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