France and the EU have cut off financial support to Niger after a coup toppled the West African country’s democratically elected president.
In a statement, France – Niger’s former colonial power – called for the “immediate return to the Nigerien constitutional order” adding to the mounting international pressure on the coup plotters.
The move came shortly after the European Union suspended all security cooperation to Niger earlier Saturday, and announced it would no longer provide financial support. Niger is one of the world’s poorest countries and receives hundreds of millions of dollars each year in assistance.
Abdourahamane Tiani, a general who leads the country’s presidential guard, was declared the country’s new leader after President Mohamed Bazoum was detained earlier this week.
“This unacceptable attack on the integrity of Niger’s republican institutions will not remain without consequences for the partnership and cooperation between the European Union and Niger, in all its various aspects,” said Josep Borell, the EU’s foreign policy chief.
“President Bazoum was democratically elected; he is and remains the only legitimate President of Niger. He must be released unconditionally and without delay.”
Leaders from Washington to Moscow have called for Bazoum’s release, so far to no avail.
The African Union on Saturday demanded that Nigerien military personnel “immediately and unconditionally return to their barracks and restore constitutional authority,” within 15 days. The AU warned it would “take necessary action, including punitive measures against the perpetrators, should the rights of political detainees not be respected.”
Borell and French President Emmanuel Macron both said they would be willing to support regional organizations, including the Economic Community of West African States, should they decide to bring sanctions against Niger.
It is unclear to what extent international pressure would impact the decision of those attempting to seize power.
An aide loyal to the deposed president told CNN there was infighting among the plotters. However, Niger’s military have endorsed the coup.
Niger lies at the heart of Africa’s Sahel region, which has seen numerous power grabs in recent years including in Mali and Burkina Faso.
A key ally of the United States, France and other Western governments, Niger had been one of the few democracies in a region fraught with Islamist insurgencies.