The EU and France suspend their financial aid to Niger, while the AU calls on the military to return to their barracks.
The European Union and France have cut off financial support for Niger and the United States has threatened to do the same after this week’s military coup, while the African Union called on putschist military leaders to return in their barracks.
The commander of Niger’s presidential guard, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, declared himself on Friday head of a transitional government after its soldiers arrested President Mohamed Bazoum on Wednesday.
“In addition to the immediate cessation of budgetary support, all security cooperation actions are suspended indefinitely with immediate effect,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement on Saturday .
According to its website, the EU has allocated 503 million euros ($554 million) of its budget to improve governance, education and sustainable growth in Niger over the period 2021-2024.
Borrell’s statement also said that Bazoum “remains the only legitimate president of Niger,” and called for his immediate release and holding the coup plotters to account for the safety of the president and his family.
Borrell said the EU was ready to support future decisions taken by the West African regional bloc, “including the adoption of sanctions.”
The French Foreign Ministry said France had suspended all development aid and budgetary support with immediate effect, demanding a rapid return to constitutional order with Bazoum back in charge. French development aid to Niger amounted to around 120 million euros ($130 million) in 2022 and is expected to be slightly higher this year.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “The very important assistance we are putting in place for the people of Niger is clearly at risk. »
Earlier, America’s top diplomat also offered his “unwavering support” to Niger’s ousted leader. Blinken told Bazoum in a phone call that Washington would work to restore constitutional order after it was overthrown in the coup, the State Department said Friday.
Blinken also “praised Bazoum’s role in promoting security not only in Niger but in the broader West Africa region.”
Blinken’s comments come after he told Bazoum earlier in the week that Washington’s support for the landlocked African nation would depend on its “democratic governance and respect for the rule of law and human rights.”
In a speech on state television on Friday, General Tchiani, 62, said he had took control of the government to prevent “the progressive and inevitable disappearance” of the country.
“Return to the barracks”
The African Union also demanded that Niger’s military “return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority” within 15 days of taking power.
The AU Peace and Security Council “demands that the military immediately and unconditionally return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority, within a maximum period of fifteen (15) days”, he indicated in a statement. communicated following a meeting Friday on the coup d’état in Niger.
The group said it “condemns in the strongest possible terms” the overthrow of the elected government and expressed deep concern over the “alarming resurgence” of military coups in Africa.
@ #AUPSC Emergency meeting (virtual) – The Council condemns in the strongest possible terms the military coup in the Republic of #Niger – See link to the Press Release –https://t.co/DKOUgwtBWC pic.twitter.com/GrvmmErSm5
— African Union Political Affairs, Peace and Security (@AUC_PAPS) July 29, 2023
Tchiani had already led the resistance during a failed coup in March 2021, when troops attempted to seize the presidential palace days before the then newly elected Bazoum was sworn in.
The election of the pro-Western Bazoum party marked the first peaceful transfer of power since Niger gained independence from France in 1960.
Niger, which borders seven African countries including Libya, Chad and Nigeria, is seen by the United States and former colonial ruler France as an important partner in confronting security threats in the region.
The country is the largest recipient of US military assistance in West Africa, having received an estimated $500 million in aid since 2012.
The country also hosts more than 2,000 Western soldiers, mainly American and French.