The United States has officially concluded that a military coup d’état took place in Niger.
The written announcement by State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller came more than two months after military leaders in Niger ousted democr atically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and placed him under house arrest. In the intervening time, the U.S. has tried unsuccessfully to persuade military leaders in Niger to restore constitutional order, release President Bazoum, and return him to office.
The failed effort comes with consequences for Niger, with whom the United States has partnered to fight terrorist violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State.
As Spokesperson Miller explained, in accordance with the Department of State’s annual appropriations act, the United States is suspending most U.S. assistance to the government of Niger. This includes $200 million dollars in certain foreign assistance programs, which the U.S. temporarily paused on August 5. In addition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s assistance to Niger is suspended, including all preparatory work on its $302 million Niger Regional Transportation Compact and all new activity on its 2018 Compact.
Although currently the United States still has armed forces in Niger, U.S. military operations are now restricted to flying intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions to protect the safety of U.S. personnel. Counterterrorism operations, as well as training and capacity building for the Nigerien military, are suspended.
Spokesperson Miller underscored, however, that the United States “will maintain our life-saving humanitarian, food, and health assistance to benefit the people of Niger. The United States also intends to continue to work with regional governments, including in Niger to advance shared interests in West Africa.”
“We stand with the Nigerien people in their aspirations for democracy, prosperity and stability,” said Spokesperson Miller. “Since the coup, we have supported the Economic Community of West African State’s efforts to work with Niger to achieve a return to democratic rule.”
He added that any resumption of U.S. assistance will require action by the military junta’s ruling body, the National Council for Safeguarding the Homeland, “to usher in democratic governance in a quick and credible timeframe.”
In a recent speech in Angola, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned, “When generals overturn the will of the people and put their own ambitions above the rule of law, security suffers – and democracy dies.”
Democracy should be returned to Niger.