UN still delivering aid in Niger, no contact with military

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United Nations is still delivering aid in Niger although U.N. officials in the country said on Friday they have not had any contact with the military following a coup.

Niger military officers declared General Abdourahamane Tiani as the new head of state of the West African on Friday, saying they had suspended the constitution and dissolved all former institutions after overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum.

“We are not in contact with the military,” Nicole Kouassi, the current top U.N. official in Niger, told reporters.

“Concerning the president, information we have from our political office is he seemed to be at his home and he seemed to be fine,” she said. “The situation in the country is quite calm.”

The U.N. has called for Bazoum to be released.

The United Nations has 1,600 staff in Niger – of which about 352 are international – and Kouassi said all were safe.

The United Nations says some 4.3 million people need humanitarian help in Niger, where more than 370,000 people are displaced within the country, which also hosts more than 250,000 refugees – mainly from Nigeria, Mali and Burkina Faso.

A U.N. appeal for $584 million in aid funding is currently only 32% funded.

“The humanitarian response continues on the ground and has never stopped, actually, since the events occurred in Niger,” the U.N. World Food Programme official in Niger, Jean-Noel Gentile, told reporters.

Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin, who remains active despite leading a failed mutiny against the Russian army’s top brass last month, hailed Niger’s military coup as good news and offered his fighters’ services to bring order.

“As of now, no sign of Wagner from the U.N. perspective,” said Kouassi.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; editing by Paul Grant and Grant McCool)