The United States has frozen $20 million in aid for Niger in protest at President Mamadou Tandja’s moves to extend his time as leader, government sources in the African uranium-producing state said.
Washington has not commented on the matter but two Niger officials, who asked not to be named, said the money was part of the US Millenium Challenge Corporation agreement with Niger.
“The programme is worth at least $20 million and is essentially part of a strategy to fight against corruption and improve education for girls,” one of the officials told Reuters, adding that the United States believes Tandja’s expansion of power is illegal.
World bodies have widely criticised Tandja for rewriting the constitution earlier this year in order to extend his mandate and expand his powers. The move also was contested within the country but Tandja won an August referendum on the question.
Last month, the European Union froze its development aid to protest against what it said was a “grave violation” of constitutional rule. The EU also has demanded talks with the government but extended a deadline that passed last month.
Analysts have questioned how effective financial sanctions will be on Tandja’s government, which says the constitutional changes were necessary to allow Tandja to complete major projects such as Areva’s massive Imouraren uranium mine, a Chinese-funded oil project and a hydroelectric dam.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS has suspended Niger but a mediator from the group is trying to rekindle dialogue between Tandja’s government and the opposition.
Tandja, who had been due to step down after his second term later this month, has at least three more years in power.