Niger coup: EU threatens suspending budget support as General Tchiani declares himself leader

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The EU’s top diplomat on Friday warned of “consequences” for the cooperation between the EU and Niger, including the suspension of budget support, after General Abdourahmane Tchiani declared himself leader of the African country.

“The EU strongly condemns the coup in Niger. The events of recent days constitute a serious attack on stability and democracy in Niger,” High Representative Josep Borrell said in a statement.

“Any breakdown of the constitutional order will have consequences for cooperation between the EU and Niger, including the immediate suspension of all budget support,” he added.

The warning came as General Abdourahmane Tchiani, the head of the Presidential Guard, declared himself leader of Niger on state television after soldiers announced they had seized power in a coup on Wednesday. The putsch has been condemned by the EU and other international bodies as an attack on democracy. 

The EU has invested €503 million to strengthen governance, education and training and economic development in Niger between 2021 and 2024. Earlier this month, a further investment of €66 million in education was announced.

Niger, seen as a key Western ally in Africa, hosts many foreign troops and military missions. This has invited speculation that the orchestrators of the coup may have received Western military training.

In December 2022, the EU announced a three-year military mission to Niger to support the fight against terrorist groups. The mission has deployed 50-100 troops, with Germany pledging in April it would send a further 60 soldiers.

Asked Thursday whether the rebels within the presidential guard could have benefited from EU military training, a spokesperson on behalf of the European Commission could not provide immediate comment.

Since Wednesday, Niger President Mohamed Bazoum has been held by troops from the presidential guard. Brussels has also called for President Bazoum’s security and freedom of movement to be ensured.

Foreign affairs ministers from the EU member states also reacted Friday to the attempted coup and detention of President Bazoum.

“The fact that soldiers have now staged a coup in order to take power in the Niger is a bitter blow for the many people there who have done so much in recent years to ensure a better future for their country,” said German foreign minister Annalena Baerbock following a phone call with the foreign minister of Niger.

French foreign minister Catherine Colonna also reiterated Friday France’s condemnation of the coup, and called “for a return to constitutional order, the restoration of democratic integrity and the re-establishment of the legal authorities.”

The coup follows various attempted takeovers in West African nations, including Mali and Burkina Faso, in recent years.

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