Thursday, May 30, 2024

French Ambassador to Niger Held “Hostage” by the Military Junta, Says Macron

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By: Sainabou Gassama

President Emmanuel Macron alleged on Friday that the French ambassador to Niger is effectively trapped within the French embassy, dependent on military rations, and accused the ruling military leaders of obstructing food deliveries to the embassy.

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He stated, “As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy.” Macron also noted that they were impeding food supplies, implying that this action was carried out by Niger’s new military rulers, before adding that the ambassador was subsisting on military rations.

In the wake of the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, Niger’s military authorities instructed French Ambassador Sylvain Itte to leave the country. However, despite a 48-hour ultimatum issued in August, Ambassador Itte remained in place, as the French government refused to comply with the demand or recognize the legitimacy of the military regime. France, along with most of Niger’s neighboring countries, has condemned the coup.

Macron explained that the ambassador “cannot go out, he is persona non grata and he is being refused food.” When asked if France would consider recalling the ambassador, Macron responded, “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”

France maintains approximately 1,500 troops in Niger and has previously stated that any redeployment would require negotiations with President Bazoum. The new leaders of Niger have annulled military cooperation agreements with France and urged French troops to depart swiftly. Macron has consistently rejected calls to recall the French ambassador, a stance that the European Union (EU) also supports, with the EU describing the demand as “a provocation.”

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Like France, the EU does not acknowledge the authorities who seized power in Niger. The Sahel region, situated south of the Sahara Desert and plagued by coups in recent years, has seen military regimes replace elected governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger, prompting Macron to label it an “epidemic” of coups.

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