Salem Bazoum, the son of Niger President Mohamed Bazoum who was toppled in a coup last year, was provisionally released on Monday, according to a statement by the Niamey military tribunal.
The 22-year-old had been in detention at the presidential residence with his parents since the coup in July. The tribunal did not provide details on the fate of Salem’s parents.
The coup, one of eight in West and Central Africa since 2020, was widely condemned, led to sanctions from the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS), and prompted widespread calls for Bazoum’s release and a return to democratic rule.
Niger has been ruled by military leaders since the overthrow of elected president Bazoum, which prompted international condemnation. Military ruler General Abdourahamane Tchiani has said his regime wants up to three years for a transition back to a civilian government.
A source close to the removed president told the AFP news agency that Salem Bazoum had left Niamey for Lome, the capital of Togo, where he arrived on Monday evening.
A statement by the Togolese government confirmed a deal for the younger Bazoum’s release after mediation from Togo and Sierra Leone, but gave no details about his whereabouts.
Niger is currently suspended from the ECOWAS, which has said the release of Bazoum and his return to power are among the conditions for easing sanctions. But Togo is among several West African states that have been involved in mediation with the Nigerien military regime after the bloc softened its stance on a possible forceful intervention.
On Monday, Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey was in Niamey, where he met with Niger’s military-appointed prime minister, according to Nigerien public television.
This followed a trip by Dussey in mid-December when he said he had reached an agreement “on the content and timing of the transition” with the prime minister.
The new military government has distanced itself from Niger’s hitherto close European partners – notably France – and has drawn closer to two of its neighbours, Mali and Burkina Faso, which after recent coups are also run by militaries. The last French troops withdrew from Niger in December.
Like Burkina Faso and Mali, Niger has faced persistent rebel violence, particularly in the so-called tri-border area where the three Sahel countries meet. Al Jazeera