/ 23 August 2023

‘Unfortunate’ Niger coup needs peaceful resolution, says China’s top diplomat for Africa

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Wu Peng, head of the department of African affairs of China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (Photo by VCG/VCG via Getty Images)

China’s government believes the coup in Niger needs to be resolved peacefully and through a process involving its neighbours in the Sahel region of West Africa, rather than through foreign intervention.

Wu Peng, the director general for African affairs in the Chinese foreign ministry, described the 26 July military coup, which ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, as “very unfortunate”.

In response to questions at a media briefing after the state visit to South Africa by China’s President Xi Jinping ahead of the Brics summit in Johannesburg, Wu said his country had been watching events in Niger “very closely”.

He said he had visited Niger a year ago and met Bazoum, holding “a very good conversation” about a dam construction project and cooperation between the two countries on crude oil production.

“It is very unfortunate that one year later now this very sad thing has happened in Niger,” Wu said.

But the coup was a “domestic issue of Niger” and China’s foreign policy of  non-interference remained “very consistent”.

”Only African people have the right and the capacity and the wisdom to solve Africa problems,” he said. 

The African Union has suspended Niger’s membership, while the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which has threatened military intervention, will hold a summit on Thursday to discuss its standoff with Niger’s military government led by General Abdourahamane Tiani.

Wu said China was “still relatively optimistic” that the Niger situation “could or should be resolved through peaceful negotiation between Ecowas under the guidelines by the AU and that Niger’s neighbours continue peaceful talks”.

“Political resolution is the only way,” he said.

Asked to outline China’s stance on the presence of Russia’s Wagner mercenaries in the Sahel, Wu declined to comment, saying that these were “domestic issues of those countries”.

“If a sovereign state has some kind of cooperation with a particular country, as a Chinese diplomat I do not want to comment on that,” he said.

“The fate of African countries should only be decided by themselves, rather than by outside forces.”

Wu would also not be drawn on reports that Xi and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi were set to hold bilateral talks on the sidelines of the Brics summit regarding their ongoing border dispute.

Modi said in a statement released on Tuesday morning that he looked forward to having bilateral meetings with “some of the leaders present in Johannesburg”.

“I do believe that Prime Minister Modi will have a chance to have close exchanges with President Xi Jinping during his time here in South Africa,” Wu said.

On the expansion of Brics, one of the key issues up for discussion at this year’s summit, Wu said Xi and South Africa’s President Cyril Ramaphosa had met and discussed the matter.

“The two presidents have exchanged positions … they have the same position. The two countries will support expansion,” he said.

Wu said the Brics foreign ministers had held talks on expansion on Tuesday afternoon, while the heads of state would, during their retreat, further discuss the more than 20 countries that had applied to join Brics.