US declares July takeover in Niger was a coup

Washington cuts aid to government but says it will 'maintain life-saving humanitarian, food and health assistance' to the people of Niger

Supporters of Niger's junta protest against perceived foreign interference in Niamey. AP
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The US has assessed that the military takeover in Niger was a coup, the State Department announced on Tuesday.

“The United States is suspending most US assistance to the government of Niger”, but Washington “will maintain our life-saving humanitarian, food and health assistance” to the people of Niger, it said.

Washington has no plans to change its troop set-up in the country, senior US officials said, with about 1,000 American soldiers currently assisting Niger in its fight against extremist insurgents who have killed thousands of people and displaced millions.

“We're taking this action because over the last two months, we've exhausted all available avenues to preserve constitutional order in Niger,” one senior official said, according to Reuters.

The US has been pressing for a diplomatic resolution to the crisis that erupted on July 26 when Nigerien military officers seized power, deposing the president Mohamed Bazoum and placing him under house arrest.

The official said the US had urged the junta to abide by the constitution, which in the view of Washington stipulates a “transition government dealing with a national emergency would have to restore civilian and democratic rule within 90-120 days”.

“As time has passed, it's become clear that the CNSP [National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland] officials that we've been dealing with did not want to abide by these constitutional guidelines and, in fact, they've told us that they've chosen to repeal that constitution,” the official said, referring to the junta.

Niger soldiers declare coup on national TV – video

Niger soldiers declare coup on national TV

Niger soldiers declare coup on national TV

The formal designation of a coup limits what assistance Washington can provide the country. Despite a decision not having been made yet on designating it a coup, the US in August paused certain foreign assistance programmes that benefited the government of Niger but said it would continue giving humanitarian and food assistance.

The junta has been informed of Washington's decision to suspend certain assistance, the official said.

On Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a call with Mr Bazoum.

“Secretary Blinken reiterated that a democratically elected, civilian-led government presents the best opportunity to ensure that Niger remains a strong partner in security and development in the region,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.

“The United States calls for the immediate release of all those unjustly detained following the military takeover.”

The US has made Niger its main regional outpost for wide-ranging patrols by armed drones and other anti-terrorism operations against extremist movements that over the years have seized territory, murdered civilians and battled foreign armies, the Associated Press reported.

The bases are a critical part of America's overall anti-terrorism efforts in West Africa.

The US has also invested years and hundreds of millions of dollars in training Nigerien forces.

The Pentagon last month repositioned some troops and equipment within Niger and withdrew a small number of non-essential personnel.

Updated: October 10, 2023, 4:35 PM