French Ambassador to Niger Leaves Country Amid Tension with Military Government
The French ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, has left the country and returned to Paris following weeks of tension with the new military government. This comes after the military leaders demanded Itte’s expulsion following the overthrow of democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
Itte, who remained in Niger despite a 48-hour ultimatum to leave, left Niamey with six colleagues in the early hours of the morning. French President Emmanuel Macron had previously announced that the ambassador would leave “in the coming hours”. Niger’s military leaders welcomed the announcement, as they had previously told Itte to leave the country.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna expressed her gratitude to Itte for his work and service under difficult conditions. Macron, in turn, accused the military rulers of blocking food deliveries to the French embassy and described Itte’s living situation as that of a hostage.
Macron reiterated France’s support for ousted President Bazoum and its commitment to a return to constitutional order in Niger. He also stated that French troops would withdraw from Niger in the months and weeks to come, with a complete pullout by the end of the year.
The tension between France and Niger had sparked demonstrations in the capital city of Niamey, where thousands of people have been demanding the departure of French soldiers stationed at a military base. This comes in the wake of a string of coups in the region, with similar actions taking place in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022 respectively. These earlier coups also led to the withdrawal of French troops.
As the French ambassador departs from Niger, the focus now shifts to the future of the country and the potential implications of the military government’s rise to power. With tensions running high and the withdrawal of French troops on the horizon, the path forward for Niger remains uncertain.
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