- Niger’s human rights groups have backed the United States decision to suspend grants in protest at President Mamadou Tandja's moves to extend his grip on power, local reports said.
The US has frozen $20 million in aid for Niger which is part of the Millenium Challenge Corporation agreement with the West African state.
Leading member of the coalition, Abdul Kamardine said the move could potentially increase both local and international pressure on President Mamadou Tandja to step down.
President Tandja has come under criticism from the international community after changing Niger’s constitution in a referendum to extend his stay in power. The opposition has described the move as a coup d’état.
“We are actually supporting that stance from the US government of suspending its support from the MCC to the education of the young girls. Because we consider that it is a supplementary pressure on President Tandja’s government so as to push them to restore real democracy,” he said.
The US Millennium Challenge Corporation said in a statement Wednesday that it was suspending a $23 million aid to Niger. The fund supports graft reduction and girl-child education.
In October, the West African economic bloc, ECOWAS suspended Niger after President Mamadou Tandja refused to postpone the legislative elections. The bloc had called on Niger to delay elections pending the political dialogue after a controversial referendum that has extended the president's term in office.
President Tandja ignored the last-minute appeals by ECOWAS leaders to delay the poll, saying preparations were too far advanced for a postponement.
In Niger, Mr Tandja, has made more enemies after forcibly staging a referendum for a third term to run as president. He dissolved parliament just a day after the Constitutional Court rejected a call for a referendum on 25 May to allow him to seek a third term when his mandate expires on 22 December.
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