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French Ambassador in Niger: An Unexpected Evacuation Amid Rising Tensions

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BNN Correspondents
New Update

The Unanticipated Departure

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In an unexpected move, the French ambassador in Niger was flown out of the country in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to security sources. The specific reasons for this sudden evacuation remain under wraps, and the context of this event and its potential implications are still unclear.

Evacuation Amidst Political Unrest

President Emmanuel Macron accused Niger's ruling army of blocking food deliveries to the embassy, resulting in the French envoy having to survive on military rations. Macron described the situation as akin to a hostage scenario, with the ambassador and diplomatic staff being confined within the French embassy. The ambassador's mobility was restricted, and he was denied access to food.

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Niger's military leaders previously demanded the departure of the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, following their overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum in July. A 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave was issued in August, but the French government refused to comply or to recognize the military government as legitimate. The coup was widely condemned by France and most of Niger's neighbors.

Military Rations and Diplomatic Deadlock

Despite the tensions and the harsh conditions, Macron stated his readiness to do whatever was agreed upon with President Bazoum, who he recognizes as the legitimate authority. France maintains a presence of about 1,500 soldiers in Niger and has said that any redeployment could only be negotiated with Bazoum. Niger's new leaders, however, have terminated military cooperation agreements with France and have requested the troops leave promptly.

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Macron's refusal to remove the French ambassador was supported by the EU, which also does not acknowledge the authorities that seized power in Niger. The impoverished Sahel region, south of the Sahara, has seen a surge in coups in recent years, with military regimes replacing elected governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger.

The Larger Picture

Niger is also embroiled in a standoff with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails. The French ambassador and other French diplomats in Niger are facing a challenging situation, with Macron stating that they are "literally being held hostage" at the French embassy.

The military junta that seized control of Niger in July revoked the ambassador's visa and instructed the police to expel him. However, the ambassador remained in place, with French authorities reiterating that they do not recognize the junta's authority. The situation for the French diplomatic staff in Niger is becoming increasingly precarious, and their future in the country remains uncertain.

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