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Blinken says US 'pausing' some foreign aid programs for Niger following military takeover

The State Department announced Friday that it will pause some foreign aid programs in Niger after the country’s democratic government was overthrown by military leaders.

Humanitarian and food aid in the country will continue, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“As we have made clear since the outset of this situation, the provision of U.S. assistance to the government of Niger depends on democratic governance and respect for constitutional order,” Blinken said.

“We remain committed to supporting the people of Niger to help them preserve their hard-earned democracy and we reiterate our call for the immediate restoration of Niger’s democratically-elected government.

Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum — elected in 2021 as the first democratic leader in the country’s history — was removed from power and placed under arrest by military leaders last week.

U.S. officials have not called the action a coup, but have demanded that Bazoum be released and given his authorities as president once again.

“I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released, and for the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy,” President Biden said in a statement Thursday. “The Nigerien people have the right to choose their leaders. They have expressed their will through free and fair elections — and that must be respected.”

The American embassy in the Nigerien capital of Niamey was partially evacuated this week, citing danger from military activity. 

The military junta, led by Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani, took over the government last week following days of fighting. Tchiani has been declared the nation’s head of state, though he is not recognized by the U.S. or its allies.

Tchiani’s forces have appealed to Russia for assistance, including the mercenary Wagner Group, The Associated Press reported. 

Regional leaders are preparing a military intervention plan for the nation if Bazoum is not reinstated by Sunday, they said.

Source: The Hill

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