French President Emmanuel Macron stated on Friday that France’s representative in Niger is effectively confined to the French embassy, living under conditions akin to that of a hostage. Macron accused the military leaders in Niger of obstructing the delivery of food supplies to the diplomatic mission. The ambassador is subsisting on “military rations,” Macron disclosed to the press in the French town of Semur-en-Auxois.
He stated, “As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy.” Macron further noted, “They are preventing food deliveries,” which appeared to be directed at the newly established military rulers in Niger. “He is eating military rations.”
After overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, Niger’s military leaders instructed French ambassador Sylvain Itte to leave the country. However, a 48-hour deadline for his departure, issued in August, lapsed with him still in place, as the French government refused to comply or acknowledge the legitimacy of the military regime.
France, along with most of Niger’s neighboring countries, has condemned the coup. Macron emphasized that the envoy “cannot go out, he is persona non grata, and he is being refused food.”
When asked if France would consider recalling him, Macron stated, “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.” Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna later confirmed that the ambassador “is working” and would remain at his post for as long as Paris deemed necessary.
Colonna added that the ambassador remains valuable to France due to his connections and those of his team. France maintains approximately 1,500 troops in Niger, and earlier this month, stated that any redeployment would only be negotiated with Bazoum. The new leaders in Niger have nullified military cooperation agreements with France and urged the troops to depart promptly.
For weeks, Macron has rejected calls to remove the French ambassador, a position endorsed by the EU, which has labeled the demand as “a provocation.” Similar to France, the EU does not recognize the authorities who seized power in Niger, according to EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali’s statement last month.
The impoverished Sahel region, located south of the Sahara, has witnessed what Macron has described as an “epidemic” of coups in recent years, with military regimes supplanting elected governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger.