The United States has said it will continue to provide humanitarian aid to the West African country. The EU does not want that.
The European Union says it is suspending “all security cooperation activities” with Niger with immediate effect just days after the army ousted the government in a military coup.
Niger’s president, Mohammed Bazoum, “was democratically elected and therefore he is and remains the only legitimate president in the country,” EU diplomatic chief Josep Borrell said on Saturday.
Borell also called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of the president and his family, saying the EU was ready to support future decisions by the West Africa regional bloc, “including the adoption of sanctions”.
The announcement will be a serious blow to Niger, which has been a major recipient of Western aid as an ally in the fight against jihadist insurgencies that have destabilized the wider Sahel region.
What happened on Wednesday?
In Niger, General Abdourahamane Tchiani, also known as Omar Tchiani, declared himself “the president of the National Council for the Protection of the Homeland” earlier this week.
In his radio address, Tchiani said he organized the coup with the assistance of the presidential guard, which he has led since 2011.
In their first act as coup leaders, they held their first meeting with officials, suspended the country’s constitution and warned of potential military intervention.
Tchiani explained that the reasons behind the coup have to do with current President Mohamed Bazoum’s policy to fight regional terrorism and generally the overall security situation in the country.
According to him, the country had to change course to avoid “gradual and inevitable death”. Some experts gave a more straightforward reason: Bazoum was allegedly planning to fire Tchiani.
International support for Niger’s first democratically elected leader
Western leaders have strongly condemned Tchiani’s actions. The ousted president, Mohamed Bazoum, was elected just two years ago after the first ever free, democratic, internationally recognized elections in Niger’s post-colonial history. Bazoum and his family are probably kept in their residence.
Bazoum’s last appearance was his post on social media on Thursday morning calling to protect “hard-fought democracy”. In particular, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that Bazoum can count on the US’s “unfailing support”.
The European Union has warned of cutting aid to Niger. In return, the UN says humanitarian aid will continue despite the recent coup, although humanitarian aid efforts have been suspended due to the closed airspace in the country.
Similar situation in neighboring countries
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is planning an emergency meeting on Sunday in Nigeria’s capital. ECOWAS leaders have expressed concern over the increased number of coups in the region in recent years.
Mali and Burkina-Faso, two countries that border Niger and share the same jihad-related problems, have seen several coups since 2020.
So far, the situation on the ground is relatively calm.