Harare — Kathleen FitzGibbon, the new U.S. Ambassador to Niger, is heading to take up her new position in Niamey this week, the U.S. Department of State announced.
“It is a signal of the United States continued engagement in this situation. It is not a signal of any change in U.S. policy as it relates to the circumstances in Niger. We have been quite clear of what we want to see happen. We want to see President Bazoum and his family released.
“We want to see the constitutional order in Niger respected. That was the case this whole time, and that will be the case whenever Ambassador FitzGibbon gets to Niamey as well. And so I just want to be very clear about that, that this is not a change in policy or posture,” said Vedant Patel, the deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department.
After being delayed for a full year as a result of a separate political conflict, FitzGibbon, a career diplomat with substantial expertise in Africa, was finally confirmed by the Senate as ambassador on July 27 – one day after the coup.
FitzGibbon, who was previously the number two in the U.S. embassy in Nigeria, will fly to Niamey as the U.S. Embassy’s non-emergency workers are being told to leave.
Patel also said that there are no plans for FitzGibbon to give her credentials to the coup leaders as the Biden administration still recognises Bazoum as the country’s leader.
“She is going there to lead the mission during a critical time and to support the American community and to coordinate on the U.S. government’s efforts,” Patel said.
The military authorities have rejected attempts at diplomacy and rebuffed calls from Western powers and African states to return ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, who has been held since July 26, to power.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with Bazoum and regional officials on numerous occasions, and his deputy, Victoria Nuland, undertook an unannounced visit to Niamey last week in an unsuccessful attempt to press military commanders.
In an effort to emphasize democracy in a nation that serves as a major hub for U.S. and French anti-militant operations, Blinken visited Niger in March as the highest-ranking U.S. official to ever do so.
Earlier, Colonel Assimi Goita, the head of Mali’s military, spoke by phone with Vladimir Putin, president of Russia, about the situation in Niger. Western governments are likely to be alarmed by the call since they are concerned about expanding Russian influence in the Sahel.