Former Deputy Permanent Representative of Nigeria to the United Nations (UN), Ambassador Usman Sarki, has said that the United States (US) regards Niger as an asset and has not really alienated the regime, protecting the country’s (US) interests.
In an interview with ARISE NEWS on Friday, Sarki said that the real actor to watch in the Niger crisis is the US, stating that the country is being flexible with vast interests to protect in the Republic.
According to Sarki, the US currently refers to the Nigerien government change as an “unconstitutional change of government” and has not properly referred to the crisis as a military coup, which would ideally lead the US to sanction Niger under “section 7008 of The United States Appropriations Bill.”
He said, “The United States is actually being very flexible, not burning its bridges, not really alienating the regime in Niger but trying to cover, protect its interest, and you know the US interests are very vast in Niger.
“They will be talking to the regime, and maybe even arrange, behind our back, some sort of accommodation with them for them to trancede while mitigating the sanctions that we have agreed to impose on them, so the actor to watch is the United States really not France.”
He stated that the US regards Niger as an asset and would prefer not to see them alienated or diverted from their programme, but rather to accommodate them and gradually nudge them towards a transition that will be acceptable to the US.
“It’s very surprising that in Nigeria the narrative has not really focused on the United States, the role of the US in Niger today,” he said.
Niger’s military leadership had asked the French ambassador to leave the country, heightening the international crisis in the West African country following a coup that toppled the democratically elected president Bazoum.
Saraki said, “The idea that the French are the main cause of the issue came like an afterthought when the coup took place.
“I think it became an issue, a convenient issue that the regime in Niger could hold on to, latch on to in order to gain legitimacy, popularity and entrench itself.
“Today, it became like a revolutionary issue to be anti-French, so that came as an anti-climax in terms of getting a reason to really entrench themselves in power. We are not surprised that, today, they have asked the French ambassador to leave, declaring him a png, persona non grata, to leave in 24 hours.”
He said that this is part of the regime’s plan to establish itself, show their people that they are independent of the former colonial master, and demonstrate to other Africans that they are “anti-colonialists,” “the good guys.”
“When you dive deep down, it is a matter of strategy,” he stated, “survival first for the regime, legitimacy and also to get to use it as a bargaining chip to bargain with the Western countries, particularly with the United States of America (US).”
Sarki also stated that ECOWAS has read the “writing on the wall” that the entire world may not support immediate military action and that they are adjusting their position to continue with diplomatic trials; however, their message remains clear on maintaining sanctions against Niger and leaving the ousted president Bazoum unharmed.
He also believes the deployment of the ECOWAS standby force is symbolic, adding that the force is not completely deployed and obtaining them from all member countries will be difficult and time-consuming.
He stated that the deployment appeared to have elicited all types of reactions around the world, which the Niger authorities are leveraging.
Niger’s military administration has authorised troops from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso to come to its defence, upping the stakes in a standoff with other West African states working to reinstate Niger’s democratically elected president Bazoum.