Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations

Updated August 20, 2020
Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations
Events in August 2020 in Mali have focused renewed
 Funds administered by the State Department and U.S.
attention on a provision that has appeared in annual State,
Agency for International Development (USAID).
Foreign Operations and Related Programs (SFOPS)
 “Global train-and-equip” funds authorized to be
appropriations legislation since 1986 that restricts U.S.
provided by the Department of Defense under 10 U.S.C.
foreign assistance following a coup d’état. The provision
333, as the authority prohibits assistance “that is
intends to discourage and express U.S. disapproval of
otherwise prohibited by any provision of law.”
militaries seizing control of governments.
What Is Section 7008?
The provisions explicitly exempt aid to promote
democracy. The restriction also has generally not applied to
In its current form (P.L. 116-94 Division G), Section 7008
states that:
 aid fully implemented by nongovernmental
organizations rather than the government, or
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made
available pursuant to titles III through VI of this Act shall
 aid authorized or appropriated “notwithstanding” any
be obligated or expended to finance directly any
other provision of law, which in FY2020 includes most
assistance to the government of any country whose duly
humanitarian assistance; funds provided through the
elected head of government is deposed by military coup
Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia
d'etat or decree or, after the date of enactment of this Act,
(AEECA) account; aid to some specific countries (e.g.,
a coup d'etat or decree in which the military plays a
Egypt and Pakistan); and aid for some specific purposes
decisive role: Provided, That assistance may be resumed
(e.g., counter-narcotics, counter-crime, and counter-
to such government if the Secretary of State certifies and
reports to the appropriate congressional committees that
extremism), or aid that the President has authority to
subsequent to the termination of assistance a
provide in certain conditions notwithstanding
democratically elected government has taken office:
restrictions in law, subject to notification.
Provided further, That the provisions of this section shall
Section 7008 does not include waiver authority, and does
not apply to assistance to promote democratic elections
not set a time parameter for certifying either that a coup has
or public participation in democratic processes: Provided
taken place, or subsequently that a “democratically elected
further, That funds made available pursuant to the
government has taken office.”
previous provisos shall be subject to the regular
Legislative History
Legislation restricting foreign assistance after coups was
Key elements in determining whether Section 7008
first considered in the context of congressional concern
restrictions apply to a situation are
about a possible coup in El Salvador. The Foreign

Assistance and Related Programs Appropriations Act,
whether a country’s military has overthrown, or played a
FY1985 (P.L. 98-473), prohibited any appropriation from
decisive role in overthrowing, the government, and
being obligated to El Salvador if the elected President of
 whether the deposed leader was “duly elected,” a term
that country was deposed by military coup (§537). The
not defined in statute.
following year, the enacted foreign aid appropriation, P.L.
99-190, expanded the provision to prohibit funds “to any
The restriction is not a general one; it applies to selected
country whose duly elected Head of Government is deposed
types of aid, including the following:
by military coup or decree” (§513). Some version of the

“coup provision” has been included in every foreign aid
Foreign assistance provided to the government,
appropriations measure since FY1986. Congress has made
including military assistance and economic assistance
several changes to the section over time, however, the most
implemented through or in cooperation with host
significant of which are depicted in Figure 1.

Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations
Figure 1. Section 7008: Key Changes

Source: Created by CRS using information from annual Foreign Operations appropriations legislation.
Interpretation and Application of Section 7008
In at least two of these cases (Honduras and Niger), U.S.
U.S. executive branch interpretations and application of the
Administrations chose, as a matter of policy, to suspend aid
provision have varied across situations. During the past 12
consistent with the restrictions under Section 7008. While
years, the coup provision was in effect, at least temporarily,
producing a similar result to application of the provision,
for the following countries, according to public documents
this allowed the executive branch flexibility to restart some
(e.g., Millennium Challenge Corporation eligibility reports
aid prior to democratic elections. In the case of Zimbabwe,
and State Department country fact sheets):
assistance that could have been restricted under Section
Sudan (due to the 1989 coup)
7008 was already prohibited under other legislation.
Côte d’Ivoire (1999 coup; lifted after 2011 elections)
Military aid and other assistance to the governments of

Egypt, Burkina Faso, and Algeria was not restricted in
Fiji (2006 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)
connection with the events described. For Egypt, Congress
Mauritania (2008 coup; lifted after 2009 elections)
enacted new language in SFOPS appropriations measures
Madagascar (2009 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)
from FY2014 onward, making funds available, subject to
Guinea-Bissau (2012 coup; lifted after 2014 elections)
certain conditions, “notwithstanding” any other provision of

law restricting foreign assistance (currently, Section
Mali (2012 coup; lifted after 2013 elections)
7041(a) of P.L. 116-94 Division G).
Thailand (2014 coup, lifted after 2019 elections)
Policy Questions
In other countries where the military has ousted, or helped
As Congress considers SFOPS appropriations for FY2021
oust, a civilian-led government, the executive branch has
and beyond, and contemplates U.S. policy toward foreign
not invoked Section 7008. For example:
governments that assume power by coup, it may revisit
Honduras 2009. The State Department referred to the
Section 7008 and consider whether the existing provisions
military’s arrest and forced exile of the sitting president
support congressional intent. Congress may consider:
as a “coup d’état,” but asserted that these events were
Waiver. Should waiver authority be added to the provision,
not, strictly speaking, a “military coup,” citing the
or do existing workarounds—such as the notwithstanding
“complexity” of actors involved, including the courts
provisions for certain countries and certain types of
and legislature (which endorsed the military’s actions).
assistance, which may be created after the fact—provide
Congress subsequently changed the title of the provision
sufficient policy flexibility?
from “military coups” to “coups d’état” (Figure 1).
Determination. Should a determination of the coup
Niger 2010. The State Department determined that
provision’s applicability be required within a specified time
Niger’s president, who was ousted by the military, had
period? If so, should the determination remain fully
ceased to be “duly elected” because he had overstayed
delegated to the Administration, including the interpretation
his original constitutional tenure.
of events and the role of the military? Is there a role for
Egypt 2013. The State Department did not issue a
Congress in such determinations?
determination as to whether or not a coup occurred.
Intention. Is the current proviso on a resumption of aid
Burkina Faso 2014. Military commanders pressured the sufficient to adequately support the U.S. policy of objecting
president to step down amid large protests, and retained
to a coup d’état? Should the overthrow of non-“duly
influence in a subsequent civilian-led transitional
elected” leaders be punished as well? Should policymakers
government. U.S. officials referred to events as a
be granted the ability to lift the provision if the military
“popular uprising.”
transfers control to a civilian-led transitional government,

even if that government is not elected?
Zimbabwe 2017. The army seized control of key
facilities and pressed President Robert Mugabe to
Policy and Program Implications. Should the resumption
resign. The ruling party then removed Mugabe as its
of aid following an election in a country where the
leader, after which he resigned. U.S. officials did not
provision has been applied trigger other U.S. policy
refer to these events as a coup d’état. The State
responses, such as an evaluation of the status of democracy
Department had earlier stated that Zimbabwe’s 2013
in the country and whether governance or security sector
elections, in which Mugabe was reelected, “did not
reform programs are merited? Should any additional U.S.
represent the will of the Zimbabwean people.”
actions to help deter future depositions of duly elected

governments be pursued?
Algeria 2019. The army chief of staff called on
parliament to impeach the president, who resigned the
next day. U.S. officials did not publicly comment on
whether these events constituted a coup d’état.

Coup-Related Restrictions in U.S. Foreign Aid Appropriations
Further Reading on Selected Countries

Algeria: CRS In Focus IF11116, Algeria
Alexis Arieff, Specialist in African Affairs
Côte d’Ivoire: CRS Report RS21989, Côte d’Ivoire Post-
Marian L. Lawson, Specialist in Foreign Assistance Policy
Gbagbo: Crisis Recovery
Susan G. Chesser, Senior Research Librarian
Egypt: CRS Report RL33003, Egypt: Background and U.S.
Honduran Political Crisis: CRS Report R41064, Honduran
Political Crisis, June 2009-January 2010
Mali 2012 Coup: CRS Report R42664, Crisis in Mali
Sudan: CRS In Focus IF10182, Sudan
Thailand: CRS In Focus IF10253, Thailand: Background and
U.S. Relations
Zimbabwe 2017 Events: CRS Insight IN10819, Zimbabwe:
A Military-Compelled Transition?

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