The US, which is betting on Niger in the Sahel anti-jihadist war, has harshly criticized the toppling of President Mohamed Bazoum but has so far abstained from using the term “coup d’etat,” giving itself some latitude.
While France appears to be on the front lines, ordering the cessation of direct help and the evacuation of its citizens as well as other Europeans, the United States has made no decision at this time.
Above all, Washington believes that there is still a “small window” for diplomacy and the restoration of President Bazoum to his duties, and it welcomes the message of firmness delivered to the putschist soldiers by East African countries. ‘West.
“We have no indication of direct threats to US citizens or our facilities” in Niger, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday. “We have therefore not changed our posture regarding our presence in Niger for the moment”, nor decided to suspend American aid, he said.
“If we have to adjust, we will adjust. But we are not there yet,” added the official, stressing that the United States “monitored the situation almost hour by hour”. However, the Pentagon announced on Tuesday that it had suspended “security cooperation” with the Nigerien army, mainly training and training activities.
France, a former colonial power in Niger, said it has begun to evacuate its nationals and Europeans, with the first jet departing Niamey on Tuesday evening heading for Paris.
When asked why the US has not officially declared a “coup,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said on Tuesday that “it is not yet clear that this attempt (to seize power) will succeed in the end.”
According to American law, such a qualification would obligate the US to halt all economic or military assistance, with exceptions for counter-terrorism purposes. Beyond the legal and semantic labels, it is a concern for the United States of retaining a certain amount of leeway if the blow fails, agree on diplomats.
The US is paying several hundred million dollars in aid to Niger, primarily humanitarian aid, and has about 1,000 soldiers stationed there as part of the war against Islamist organizations in the Sahel.
Washington has backed the West African countries’ (ECOWAS) toughness in issuing a one-week ultimatum to Niger’s military junta demanding a “complete return to constitutional order,” NewsofAfrica has learnt.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who visited Niamey in March for the first time as an American diplomat, strengthened exchanges with regional partners as well as with France and President Bazoum himself.
In a March interview with AFP, he emphasized Washington’s backing for Niamey through a program to reintegrate repentant jihadists, an irrigation enhancement project, and climate-resilient agriculture in this desert and impoverished country.
The Biden administration wants to do more in Africa to counter growing Russian influence there. These attempts are being hampered by the coup in Niger.
Mr. Blinken made it clear that ongoing US aid to Niger would be contingent on ground developments and a return to democratic order, and that Washington might suspend aid at any time without establishing a deadline.
“Of course, if we come to the conclusion that a coup has taken place, we will follow American law,” a senior State Department official said on condition of anonymity. “It’s an attempt at a power grab. We don’t think it’s been fully successful and we think there’s a small chance of reversing it,” the official added.
He noted that the country’s new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani, did not appear to have achieved full “consensus” within the troops that surrounded him. General Tiani behaved in Washington out of personal interest, fearing removal from government.
“We do not have the feeling that he is very popular”, he added, also ruling out a direct involvement of the Russian group of mercenaries Wagner even if he could seek to “take advantage” of the situation.