Mosque security guards stand ready during a special prayer session in Niamey, Niger, on Friday following last week’s miliary coup overthrowing Niger President Mohamed Bazoum. Photo by Issifou Djibo/EPA-EFE
Aug. 5 (UPI) — The United States has partially suspended aid to Niger as military coup leaders in the country faced a Sunday deadline issued by West African states to relinquish power.
The U.S. State Department announced the move Friday in response to last week’s military coup that ousted the democratically elected government of President Mohamed Bazoum.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that while some forms of assistance are being cut, humanitarian assistance would continue.
“This interim measure does not impact all U.S. foreign assistance programs in Niger. Most importantly, the provision of life-saving humanitarian and food assistance will continue,” he said in a statement.
Further, he added, “we are continuing U.S. government activities in Niger where feasible to do so, including diplomatic and security operations, for the protection for U.S. personnel.”
The U.S. move ramped up pressure on the military junta being applied by members of the Economic Community of West African States, including Nigeria, Senegal and Ivory Coast, who have said they would support an intervention to restore the democratically elected government.
The ECOWAS states have declared the military junta led by Gen. Omar Abdourahamane Tchiani to be illegitimate and have imposed a Sunday deadline to restore Bazoum to power.
“All the elements that will go into any eventual intervention have been worked out,” said ECOWAS commissioner Abdel-Fatau Musah.
In a meeting held Friday in Abuja, Nigeria, ECOWAS military chiefs said they supported a “comprehensive approach” to the Niger coup that “encompasses political, security and diplomatic dimensions.”
“Democracy is what we stand for and democracy is what we will sustain,” said Gen. Christopher Musa, Nigeria’s chief of defense staff and president of the ECOWAS military committee,
The French government has expressed its support for the ECOWAS position in its former colony, with the French foreign ministry saying, “the future of Niger and the stability of the entire region are at stake.”
Blinken has also expressed support for the ECOWAS stance.
“As we have made clear since the outset of this situation, the provision of U.S. assistance to the government of Niger depends on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order. This is consistent with steps taken by ECOWAS and the African Union,” he said.
The top U,S, diplomat linked the restoration of aid to the restoration of democracy.
“We remain committed to supporting the people of Niger to help them preserve their hard-earned democracy and we reiterate our call for the immediate restoration of Niger’s democratically elected government,” he said.
Niger has been a crucial ally of the United States in the battle against Islamist militants in the Sahel region.
In 2022, the United States provided $200 million in aid to the country.
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