People stand near torched cars in front of the headquarters of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism, which was damaged during anti-government protests in Niamey, Niger, 28 July 2023. EFE/EPA/Issifou Djibo

African Union, EU increase pressure on Niger military coup leaders

Addis Ababa/Brussels/Sydney, Jul 29 (EFE).- The European Union on Saturday suspended financial aid to Niger while the African Union told the military in the West African nation to “return to their barracks” within 15 days since it staged a coup.

General Abdourahmane Tchiani, head of Niger’s presidential guard, on Friday, declared himself the leader of the transitional government after his military unit overthrew President Mohamed Bazoume early on Wednesday.

“The European Union does not recognise and will not recognise the authorities from the putsch in Niger,” Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy, said in a statement.

The EU has also halted its financial support and cooperation on security with Niger “indefinitely with immediate effect,” Borrell added.

The EU, United States and African Union have all called for the immediate release of President Bazoum.

The African Union on Saturday demanded the military in Niger to “return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority” within 15 days since it staged a coup, and called for the unconditional release of Bazoum.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council expressed concern over the “alarming resurgence” of military coups in Africa and said it “condemns in the strongest terms possible” the overthrow of the democratically elected Niger president.

Earlier on Saturday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken expressed support for the deposed President and warned that the developments from the coup could put an end to “millions of dollars” in development aid to the African country.

State Department spokesperson Matt Miller said in a statement that during phone calls with Bazoum and former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, Blinken stressed that “the United States will continue to work to ensure the full restoration of constitutional order and democratic rule” after Wednesday’s coup.

“The Secretary regretted that those detaining Bazoum were threatening years of successful cooperation and hundreds of millions of dollars of assistance that support the Nigerien people,” the spokesperson said.

Tchiani took over Niger on Friday in a coup led by the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland (CNSP).

The 62-year-old made the announcement on Niger’s state television channel saying the policies of the deposed president in the realms of security, economy and social issues were “incoherent and ineffective”.

All institutions and borders have been shuttered and a night curfew is in place across Niger until further notice.

Niger is the latest West African country to be taken over by a military junta, following military coups in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso between 2020 and 2022. EFE