(Bloomberg) -- Niger’s military leaders have accepted an offer from Algeria to mediate following the July 26 coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, though warned they will ultimately decide on a timeline for a return to democracy.
Algerian mediators have proposed a six-month transition back to constitutional rule after the overthrow, the latest in a series in sub-Saharan Africa. The move “opens the way to the meeting of conditions which will allow for peaceful resolution in the interest of Niger and the entire region,” its foreign ministry said on Monday.
The junta has said the process could take a maximum of three years, taking into consideration reforms and the result of a national dialog.
It’s currently unclear whether the initiative from Algeria, which borders Niger, will involve the Economic Community of West African States, which includes Niger’s neighbors.
Bazoum was deposed by a group of soldiers led by Abdourahamane Tiani, who on July 28 was named leader of Niger. That drew condemnation from the country’s neighbors and France, its former colonial power, which had troops in the country.
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Attacks by Islamic State quadrupled in the month after the military took power promising to take back territory from the militants, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a non-profit that monitors political violence. Algerian authorities have expressed concern the series of military coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger may boost radical groups active in the Sahel region and fuel instability along its porous borders.
Authorities on Monday declared a three-day national mourning period after 29 soldiers were killed in an attack by suspected jihadists, according to a statement from the defense ministry. The soldiers were targeted using “improvised explosive devices and kamikaze vehicles by more than a hundred terrorists”, it said.
Ecowas, which has imposed sanctions, including the freezing of Niger’s assets at the regional central bank and banning commercial flights, has been holding mediation talks separately with the country.
While prioritizing dialog, the regional bloc has said it stands ready to use military intervention if talks fail.
Lawyers acting for Bazoum are asking for his immediate release after filing a case against the junta in the Abuja-based regional court of Ecowas, according to an emailed statement. The matter alleges attack and conspiracy against state authority, crimes and offences committed by civil servants and arbitrary arrests and confinements, it said.
The lawyers will also appeal to the UN Human Rights Council about the present condition of Bazoum.
“The coup leaders are subjecting president Bazoum, his wife and son to arbitrary detention and abusive treatment in violation of international law,” Reed Brody, Bazoum’s lawyer, said in a text. “They should be immediately released and provided with adequate food, basic services and access to lawyers and family members.”
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