France suspends, with immediate effect, all its development aid and budget support actions in Niger. The EU has cut off all financial support and security cooperation. The African Union gives the military fifteen days to restore “constitutional authority”.
After the words, the actions. The United States, France, the European Union, the African Union, ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)… all have been mobilizing since Wednesday’s military coup, which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum.
Late Saturday afternoon, the Quai d’Orsay announced that France “suspends, with immediate effect, all its development aid and budget support actions in Niger” and calls for “the return without delay to the Nigerien constitutional order, around President Mohamed Bazoum, elected by the Nigeriens”. In 2022, French official development assistance for Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, amounted to 120 million euros. A slightly higher amount was previously scheduled for 2023, but will therefore not be delivered to the country.
Earlier in the day, the EU announced that it would also cut all financial support and security cooperation with immediate effect, according to a diplomatic source. In the morning, it was the African Union which demanded the “immediate return” of the Nigerien soldiers to their barracks and the “restoration of constitutional authority” within two weeks.
“The constitutional order must be restored”
Josep Borrell, the head of European diplomacy, had warned on Friday: “Any breach of the constitutional order will have consequences for cooperation between the EU and Niger, including the immediate suspension of all budgetary support. This Saturday morning, he once again showed his firmness. Affirming on Twitter: “The European Union does not recognize and will not recognize the authorities resulting from the putsch in Niger. The constitutional order must be restored. And indicating that the EU stood ready “to support the future decisions of ECOWAS”.
On Friday during a telephone call, the head of American diplomacy Antony Blinken had assured the elected president of Niger of the “unwavering support” of Washington. Emphasizing that the coup put “hundreds of millions of dollars in aid” at risk, but that the United States would continue to work for the “full restoration of constitutional order and democratic governance in Niger “.
On Sunday, “a special summit” of ECOWAS, to which Niger belongs, will be held in Abuja to assess the situation. Sanctions should be taken against the junta, led by General Abdourahamane Tchiani, until then head of Niger’s presidential guard.
France on deck
On the French side, the authorities are also hard at work. Barely returned from a one-week tour in Oceania, Emmanuel Macron held, this Saturday at 3 p.m., a Defense and National Security Council on the situation in Niger. Some 1,500 French soldiers are currently deployed there, who have until now worked with the Nigerien army. The United States has about a thousand on the spot.
Niger is one of Paris’ last allies in the Sahel. Previously essentially a transit base for operations in Mali, from which the Barkhane force withdrew, it is the only African country with which France still maintains a “combat partnership” against the jihadists. Friday, the French head of state condemned “with the greatest firmness” the coup. “France does not recognize the authorities resulting from the putsch led by General Tschiani”, had indicated the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
This Saturday morning, Minister Catherine Colonna reiterated, on Twitter, that “the people of Niger have democratically elected President Bazoum, his will must be respected and the constitutional order restored without delay”. Displaying his “unity of views” with his American counterpart and reaffirming his “full support for the efforts of the countries of the region” for the restoration of power in Niger.
This article is originally published on lesechos.fr