Niger’s junta, which seized power in a coup last month, has ordered the French ambassador to leave the country within 48 hours. The move is seen as a sign of deteriorating relations between the former colony and its former colonial ruler.
The military accused Ambassador Sylvain Itte of interfering in Niger’s internal affairs and supporting the ousted president, Mahamadou Issoufou. It said Itte “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as a member of the diplomatic staff of the embassy.” It also cancelled the diplomatic cards and visas of the ambassador’s families.
France, which has a military base and about 5,000 troops in Niger as part of its counter-terrorism operation in the Sahel region, has condemned the coup and called for a swift return to civilian rule. French President Emmanuel Macron said he would not recall Itte despite the junta’s pressure.
The junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDS), has promised to organise elections within a year and hand over power to a civilian government. However, it has not yet announced a timetable or a roadmap for the transition.
The junta has also faced pressure from the regional bloc ECOWAS, which has deployed a “standby” force and imposed sanctions on Niger. ECOWAS has demanded that the junta release Issoufou and other detained officials, restore the constitution, and set up an inclusive transitional body. ECOWAS says it is ready to dialogue with the junta but it will not tolerate any delay in restoring democracy.
Meanwhile, thousands of Nigeriens have taken to the streets to support the junta and express their dissatisfaction with France’s role in their country. They chant “Down with France” and “France out” at near-daily rallies in front of the French military base in Niamey. They accuse France of exploiting Niger’s natural resources, especially uranium, and meddling in its politics.
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