President Macron lamented that the envoy in Niamey has been reduced to military rations
French President Emmanuel Macron complained on Friday that France’s envoy in Niger is under siege by the military government in Niamey, two weeks after Ambassador Sylvain Itte’s accreditation was revoked.
“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,”Macron told reporters while visiting Semur-en-Auxois in Burgundy.
“They are preventing food deliveries,” he said, apparently referring to the Nigerien police. “He is eating military rations.”
The ambassador “cannot go out, he is persona non grata and he is being refused food,” the president added. Asked whether he would consider bringing Itte home, Macron said he would do “whatever we agree with President Bazoum, because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”
Mohamed Bazoum was ousted by a group of Nigerien generals on July 26. The military government expelled Itte at the end of August, but the ambassador refused to leave, arguing that only Bazoum’s government was legitimate. Thousands of Nigeriens have since protested outside the French embassy against the former colonial power, demanding the departure of both the envoy and some 1,500 troops Paris still has in the country.
Macron has responded by declaring that the military government has no legitimacy and that their expulsion of Itte was a “provocation.” The EU has backed Paris, noting that Brussels does not recognize the current government in Niamey as legitimate.
Several of Niger’s neighbors from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have threatened to send troops to restore Bazoum, but have yet to act to that effect. Meanwhile, Mali and Burkina Faso have said that any attack on Niger would be a declaration of war against them as well, and have signed a treaty with Niamey to send military help in that eventuality.