The highest civilian official of the junta that seized energy within the West African nation of Niger stated in an interview on Friday that coup leaders had no intention of harming the deposed president or collaborating with the Kremlin-backed Wagner paramilitary group.
The junta has been holding Niger’s president, Mohamed Bazoum, captive in his residence since July 26, denying him water and electrical energy, and threatening to kill him if a bunch of West African nations had been to comply with by on a proposal to reverse the coup militarily.
In an interview with The New York Instances, Ali Lamine Zeine, who was named prime minister by the junta earlier this month, stated of Mr. Bazoum, “Nothing will occur to him, as a result of we don’t have a convention of violence in Niger.” The pledge was at odds with the nation’s historical past — a president was assassinated by troopers in 1999.
Mr. Zeine, an economist skilled in France, was the nation’s finance minister within the 2000s, and an official with the African Improvement Financial institution till the army generals who took over Niger named him prime minister earlier this month.
The army takeover in Niger final month has threatened to further destabilize the Sahel, an enormous semiarid area south of the Sahara that’s already the worldwide epicenter of terrorist exercise.
America and France have troops and army bases in Niger to assist struggle off teams affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State within the area.
Two factions at the moment are vying for energy in Niger: Mr. Bazoum’s authorities, with most of its cupboard members both arrested or scattered overseas however nonetheless backed by Niger’s principal worldwide companions; and Mr. Zeine’s new authorities, successfully ruling Niger however shunned by most nations.
It’s unclear how a lot affect Mr. Zeine wields in a regime now dominated by generals. The 2 most senior members of his cupboard, the protection and the inside ministers, are each coup leaders.
“Among the many generals who look like the robust guys, Zeine is the softer man who can discuss to the worldwide neighborhood,” stated Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, a senior Sahel analyst on the Worldwide Disaster Group.
Mr. Zeine was a trusted technocrat, Mr. Ibrahim stated. However finally, “The ability lies inside the arms of the army,” he added.
America and the European Union have suspended their support and army help to Niger.
Nigeria, Niger’s southern neighbor, has minimize off the electrical energy provide, and a bloc of West African nations has imposed monetary sanctions in opposition to Niger. Mr. Zeine stated the sanctions had led to a scarcity of drugs and hovering meals costs, and he urged the West African bloc to raise them.
Mr. Zeine stated “the second will come to assessment” army partnerships with america, which has 1,100 troops in addition to drone bases in Niger. However he praised the “extraordinarily affordable place” of the Biden administration, which has known as for negotiations moderately than army motion to revive Niger’s democratic authorities.
Amid rising resentment towards the French army presence in Niger, the junta ordered 1,500 French troops to depart by early September, however the French authorities stated it thought of the directive void because it doesn’t acknowledge Niger’s junta.
Mr. Zeine accused French officers of condescension, however stated he wished France to remain. “We had been skilled in French universities, our officers had been skilled in France. We simply wish to be revered.”
Western officers have expressed fears that the junta may search to companion with Russia and the Wagner paramilitary group, which was executed in neighboring Mali, the place the army leaders have hosted 1,500 Wagner operatives to fend off an Islamist insurgency.
Mr. Zeine stated “I’ve seen no intention” on the a part of Niger’s army rulers to collaborate with Russia or the Wagner group. However, he added, “Don’t push Nigeriens to go towards companions that you just don’t wish to see right here.”