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Niger: French ambassador to stay despite ultimatum — Macron

August 28, 2023

Niger's military junta on Friday announced ordered French ambassador Sylvian Itte to leave the country within 48 hours. Macron reiterated Paris' support for ousted President Mohammed Bazoum.

French President Emmanuel Macron and ousted Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum
French President Emmanuel Macron said France's ambassador to Niger won't leave Niamey and reiterated support for ousted President Mohamed BazoumImage: Michel Euler/AP/picture alliance

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Monday that France's ambassador to Niger will stay in the West African country.

The comments come after the military junta in Niamey at ordered French ambassador Sylvian Itte to leave Niger.

Macron also reiterated Paris' support for ousted President Mohammed Bazoum, who was overthrown by Niger's military leadership on July 26.

Bazoum has been detained along with his family at Niger's presidential palace since his government was toppled. The junta leadership has been urged by Western countries and the West African bloc ECOWAS to reinstate the ousted president.

Niger deadline passes for French envoy's exit: DW reports

Macron hails Bazoum's 'courage'

"I think our policy is the right one. It's based on the courage of President Bazoum, and on the commitments of our ambassador on the ground who is remaining despite all the pressure, despite all the declarations made by the illegitimate authorities," Macron said.

"Our policy is clear: we do not recognize the putschists," he said.

"France and its diplomats have faced particularly difficult situations in some countries in recent months, from Sudan, where France has been exemplary, to Niger at this very moment and I applaud your colleague and your colleagues who are listening from their posts," he added.

Niger's foreign ministry announced on Friday that the French ambassador was to leave the country, saying he had refused to meet with junta leaders. The ministry also cited French government actions that it said were "contrary to the interests of Niger."

People demonstrating with Nigerien flag and anti-ECOWAS/anti-France poster in Niamey
Tens of thousands of people rallied in Nigerien capital Niamey on Saturday to call for the withdrawal of French troops and the expulsion of the ambassadorImage: Mahamadou Hamidou/REUTERS

Other developments in Niger

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people rallied in the Nigerien capital Niamey in support of the coup.

Those demonstrating gathered at the Seyni Kountche stadium, which was covered in Nigerien, Algerian and Russian flags. Protesters called for the withdrawal of French troops from the West African country.

France still has 1,500 soldiers in Niger, which had been helping Bazoum's government fight against an Islamist insurgency.

Also on Saturday, Niger's chief of staff put the armed forces on high alert in anticipation of possible intervention from the ECOWAS bloc.

ECOWAS Commission President Omar Alieu Touray denied that the bloc had "declared war on the people of Niger," but did not rule out the "use of legitimate force to restore constitutional order" as a last resort if diplomatic efforts failed.

sdi/lo (AFP, Reuters)