« US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin announced on Monday that Washington is willing to give ‘diplomacy a chance’ as it continues to evaluate the situation following the withdrawal of French troops from coup-affected Niger.
“We also continue to evaluate any future steps that would prioritise both our democratic and our security goals. But these goals are intertwined,” he said
Austin’s comments came during a joint press conference with Aden Bare Duale, Kenyan Defence Minister in Nairobi.
The US Defence Secretary also stated that Washington’s stance on Niger had not seen ‘significant changes’, reiterating calls for the reinstatement of Niger’s democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
« We want to see a diplomatic solution for all. We want a peaceful end to the crisis, and most important, we want to see the preservation of Niger’s diplomatically elected government, he added.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that the French troops and his ambassador to Niger, who had been living under effective house arrest, would be withdrawn from the coup-hit nation within a few months.
Paris had originally sent troops to Western Africa to counter Islamist insurgents but had faced calls from the Nigerien population and coup leaders to leave the country amid rising anti-French sentiment following the military takeover.
The two defence ministers also emphasized their countries’ strong ties and signed a five-year framework for defence cooperation, aimed at enhancing military interoperability.
« We have just signed a framework for defence cooperation spanning 2023-2028. This framework presents a significant milestone in our bilateral relations and our shared commitment to peace, security and stability in the region and globally, » said den Bare Duale, Kenyan Defense Minister in Nairobi.
Austin also highlighted Kenya’s partnership with the US in countering al-Shabab, an Islamist militant group based in neighbouring Somalia. This group has been responsible for multiple attacks in Nairobi, including the 2013 assault on the Westgate shopping mall, resulting in the deaths of 67 people.
Secretary Lloyd Austin’s visit to Kenya focused on discussions related to security and counterterrorism, reflecting the mutual commitment of both nations to regional stability. »