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Presidents Tinubu, Biden to Meet at UN, Likely Discuss Niger

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu will meet with U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly in New York next month, his spokesperson said Saturday.

The two leaders will likely discuss the situation in Niger after a military coup overthrew the country’s democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

Tinubu, who chairs the Economic Community of West African States regional bloc, is working with other heads of government in West Africa to address the political crisis in Niger after the military junta seized power there.

He has called for more U.S. investment in his country and greater cooperation for the defense of democracy in West Africa, after a series of military coups in the impoverished Sahel region.

The junta in Niger has put the country’s armed forces on the highest alert, citing what is said was an increased threat of attack by ECOWAS, which is urging the reinstatement of Bazoum.

“Threats of aggression to the national territory are increasingly being felt,” said Niger’s defense chief in an internal document issued Friday.

ECOWAS, the main West African bloc, has been trying to negotiate with the military leaders of the July 26 coup, but it has said, if diplomacy fails, it is ready to deploy troops to restore constitutional order. It has rejected a proposal by Niger’s mutinous soldiers for a three-year transition to democratic rule.

“For the avoidance of doubt, let me state unequivocally that ECOWAS has neither declared war on the people of Niger, nor is there a plan, as it is being purported, to invade the country, ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray told reporters.

The bloc’s decision earlier in August to activate a so-called standby force for a possible intervention has raised fears of an escalation that could further destabilize the insurgency-torn Sahel region.

Niger’s junta asked troops from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to come to its defense in the event of an armed conflict.

Tens of thousands of people marched on Saturday in Niamey, showing support for Niger’s military coup.

On Friday, Niger’s military rulers asked the French ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, to leave the country within 48 hours, citing “actions of the French government contrary to the interests of Niger.”

France has consistently acknowledged only the authority of Niger’s elected president, Bazoum. He is still detained by the junta. Paris reiterated Friday night that “only legitimate elected Nigerien authorities” have a say about the fate of its ambassador.

The invitation of troops from Mali and Burkina Faso as well as the dismissal of the French ambassador to Niger show “a very strong alignment” between the regimes of the two countries and that of Niger “in terms of having a very strong anti-Western and pro-authoritarian orientation,” said Nate Allen, an associate professor at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.

Before last month’s ouster of Bazoum, Niger, a former French colony, was seen as the West’s last major partner against jihadi violence in the Sahel region below the Sahara Desert, which is rife with anti-French sentiment.

The United States warned Friday that the string of military takeovers in Africa’s Sahel region will hinder the fight against terrorism.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told a U.N. Security Council meeting that the United States is focused on the increasing terrorism threat across Africa and continues providing its African partners with “critical assistance in disrupting and degrading” IS and al-Qaida affiliates.

Some information in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse.

Source : VOA News