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EU rejects Niger coup authorities, cuts aid

July 29, 2023

The European Union said it was suspending all aid to Niger with immediate effect after General Abdourahamane Tchiani declared himself the leader of the country in a coup. The bloc will also stop all security cooperation.

General Abdourahamane Tchiani declares himself as new leader of Niger after taking seizing power in a coup
The West African country has now faced its fifth coup since it gained independence from France in 1960Image: ORTN/Télé Sahel/AFP/Getty Images

The European Union will not recognize the military leaders of Niger, it announced on Saturday. 

It also suspended all security cooperation with the country with immediate effect.

The European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said they were ready to support future decisions, including the "adoption of sanctions" taken by West Africa's main regional bloc ECOWAS, in support of Niger's democratic leaders.

Niger saw a coup earlier this week, with General Abdourahamane Tchiani declaring himself the leader on Friday after removing the democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.

Bazoum "remains the only legitimate president of Niger," the European Union said in its statement.

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Bazoum, who was elected in 2021 in Niger's first peaceful transfer of power since its independence from France in 1960, is currently held by members of his presidential guard at the presidential palace.

Bazoum is seen as a key ally of Western efforts to battle Islamist insurgency in the Sahel region, and Niger is a major recipient of foreign aid.

Niger coup general now in charge of country

In a communique, the African Union asked Niger's army to "return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority" within 15 days.

The body, which consists of 55 member states that make up the countries on the continent, said it "condemns the strongest terms possible" the presidential coup. It also expressed concern over the "alarming resurgence" of military coups in Africa.

The European Union allocated €503 million ($554 million) to improve governance, education and sustainable growth in Niger between 2021 and 2024, according to information on the website.

Other Western countries withdraw support

France's Foreign Ministry also announced on Saturday the suspension of all development and budget support to the West African country with immediate effect. Paris demanded a prompt return to constitutional order, and the reinstatement of Bazoum.

France recorded last year development aid for Niger at around €120 million (roughly $130 million), the Reuters news agency reported. The European country also has some 1,500 troops in Niger.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken also warned that the coup jeopardizes "the very significant assistance" the US has in place for the country. 

Niger hosts some 1,100 US soldiers in two military bases, and is the recipient of hundreds of millions of US dollars in security and development aid, Reuters said.

Wagner chief Prigozhin praises coup, offers support

France has 1,500 soldiers in the West African country who conduct joint operations with Nigerien troops in their fight against jihadist insurgents.

Niamey's importance has increased since coups in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso led to the exit of Western forces and the entry of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner Group in recent years.

Yevgeny Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group who led a short-lived armed rebellion against the Russian military last month, hailed the coup as good news and offered his fighters' service to bring order.

rm/wd (AFP, AP) 

Security situation in Niger is abysmal: Africa specialist Malte Lierl