July 13, 2024

White House Says Diplomatic Window in Niger Remains Open, but in Niamey, the Coup is Complete with No Turning Back

NSC Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby stated “all lives matter.” Susan Walsh/AP
NSC Strategic Communications Coordinator John Kirby stated “all lives matter.” Susan Walsh/AP

The White House said on Thursday that a diplomatic window was still open for the reinstatement of the deposed president of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum. However, in Niamey, the coup is complete for the people who have taken to the streets, and there’s no going back.

Neighboring countries, Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea, have all released statements of solidarity for Niger and have warned against any military intervention or sanctions that would only punish ordinary citizens rather than the coup leaders.

Official visit to Bénin by President Mohamed BAZOUM
Mohamed Bazoum

The United States and France have some troops in Niger, officially to fight against terrorism, but mainly to protect their interests and lead a proxy war against China and Russia.

During engagements with African leaders, they talk loudly about democracy, the rule of law, protecting African nations, and providing financial ‘assistance.’ However, in Washington DC, the talks often revolve around mineral resources, how to counter Russia and China, advance core U.S. interests, embolden allies, and fight or undermine threats.

At a teleconference where the White House took questions only from American journalists and none from any African reporters on the call, John Francis Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, did not describe the unfolding situation in the West African nation as a coup, which, according to U.S. law, would trigger more sanctions.

The situation in Niger has prompted the United States to take precautionary measures, temporarily reducing personnel at the U.S. embassy in Niamey.

Amid ongoing developments and limited commercial flight options, Kirby said during a teleconference that the decision to reduce embassy staff was made out of an abundance of caution.

He added that while no direct threats targeting U.S. citizens have been observed, the U.S. State Department continues to advise against travel to Niger at this time, adding that the embassy will remain open solely to provide limited emergency assistance to U.S. citizens in need.

Kirby said the U.S. has been actively engaging in diplomatic efforts at the highest levels to help preserve Niger’s hard-earned democracy. “Niger is facing a grave challenge with democracy, and at this critical moment, the United States stands and will continue to stand with the people of Niger,” stated Kirby.

The coup in Niger has raised concerns about the country’s future stability and governance. The military’s actions have upended the democratic process and triggered domestic and international uncertainty. President Bazoum’s removal has drawn widespread condemnation abroad, but celebration at home, from a population that has seen limited improvement in their lives despite their rich resources being exploited by France and others.

Niger, a landlocked nation in West Africa, has had a history of political turbulence, and the latest coup is a stark reminder of the fragility of democracy in the region.

President Joseph R. Biden Jr. also weighed in on Thursday, issuing a statement on the occasion of Niger’s 63rd Independence Day, saying that the United States stands firmly with the people of Niger, emphasizing their right to choose their leaders through free and fair elections.

President Biden highlighted the long-standing partnership between Niger and the United States, built on shared democratic values and support for civilian-led governance.

Defending fundamental democratic principles, upholding constitutional order, ensuring justice, and protecting the right to peaceful assembly remain paramount in the partnership, he said.

Biden also called for the immediate release of President Bazoum and his family.

But for the people celebrating in Niamey, the capital of Niger, democracy has failed, and the former colonial power, France, has only continued to exploit them while the people have continued to live in squalor and hopelessness.

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