President Biden on Thursday called for the immediate release of Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum, who’s been detained since being ousted by a military coup last week.
“I call for President Bazoum and his family to be immediately released, and for the preservation of Niger’s hard-earned democracy,” Biden said in a statement commemorating Niger’s independence day. Thursday marked the 63rd anniversary of Niger’s formal independence from France.
The US has backed threats from a bloc of West African nations, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to use force if Bazoum is not reinstated by this Sunday.
Any intervention would likely involve the US, as there are about 1,100 US troops in the country and a major drone base. There are also about 1,500 French troops in the country. The US has yet to label the situation a coup since that would require cutting off aid to Niger.
“In this critical moment, the United States stands with the people of Niger to honor our decades-long partnership rooted in shared democratic values and support for civilian-led governance,” Biden said.
The Niger junta is standing firm in the face of pressure and sanctions from other West African nations, which has involved Nigeria cutting off power to Niger. Niger’s coup leader Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani has called the sanctions “inhumane” and said Niger’s military won’t cave to the pressure.
Tchiani said the military “rejects these sanctions altogether and refuses to give in to any threats, wherever they come from. We refuse any interference in the internal affairs of Niger.”
While the junta is facing pressure from ECOWAS, it has received support from its neighbors Burkina Faso, Mali, and Guinea. All three nations have been suspended from ECOWAS after their own military coups. Burkina Faso and Mali have warned ECOWAS that intervening in Niger would be considered a “declaration of war” against them, signaling intervention could spark a wider regional conflict.