US pauses some foreign aid to Niger as it reiterates support for Bazoum

Secretary of State Antony Blinken says life-saving humanitarian and food assistance will continue.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2023.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 14, 2023 [File: Ajeng Dinar Ulfiana/Reuters]

The United States has announced the suspension of some aid to Niger following the coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum.

Washington is pausing “certain foreign assistance programmes benefitting the government of Niger”, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement on Friday.

“As we have made clear since the outset of this situation, the provision of US assistance to the government of Niger depends on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order,” Blinken said, adding that Washington would continue to review its foreign assistance as the situation on the ground evolves.

Blinken did not specify what programmes would be affected but said life-saving humanitarian and food assistance, as well as diplomatic and security operations to protect US personnel, would continue.

“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,” Blinken said.

The move comes as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a regional bloc representing 15 countries, is weighing possible military intervention to return Bazoum’s government to power.

In an op-ed published in the Washington Post on Thursday, Bazoum called on the international community to help restore the country’s constitutional order, warning of “devastating” consequences for the world if the coup against him succeeds.

Niger, which gained its independence from France in 1960, has been seen as one of the few reliable partners of the West in combating violent extremism in Africa’s restive Sahel region.

The West African country is the largest recipient of US military assistance in the region and hosts more than 2,000 Western troops, mostly from the US and France.

Bazoum, one of a dwindling number of pro-Western leaders in the region, was elected in 2021 in the first peaceful transfer of power in the country since its independence.

Bazoum was deposed last week by military forces led by General Abdourahamane Tchian, who has justified the coup as necessary to prevent “the gradual and inevitable demise” of the country.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies