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31 Aug, 2023 17:44

Niger rulers order police to expel French ambassador

Coup leaders in Niamey have “no authority” to ask Sylvain Itte to leave the country, the French foreign ministry insists
Niger rulers order police to expel French ambassador

Niger’s new military government said it has revoked the diplomatic immunity of France’s ambassador Sylvain Itte and has ordered police to deport him, after a 48-hour deadline for him to leave expired on Monday.

In a statement addressed to Paris on Thursday, Niamey’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Itte “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as a member of the diplomatic staff of the French Embassy.

Last week, the military leaders who seized power from President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup on July 26, gave the French ambassador two days to depart the country.

The envoy had declined an invitation to meet with the new rulers, the Nigerien Foreign Ministry said on Friday. It also cited “other actions” of the French government, described as “contrary” to Niger’s interests, as reasons for the envoy’s expulsion.

France has refused to recall the diplomat from its former colony, instead stating that, despite pressure from “illegitimate authorities,” the ambassador will remain in Niamey.

On Monday, French President Emmanuel Macron reiterated that Paris recognizes only ousted President Bazoum as the legitimate authority in the West African country.

Macron commended Itte and other French ambassadors for their commitments despite the “difficult situations” that Paris has faced in some of its former colonies in recent months.

However, the Nigerien foreign ministry in its latest statement said the envoy’s “diplomatic cards and visas” as well as those of his family members “are cancelled” as the ultimatum expired on August 28.

The police have been instructed to carry out his expulsion,” the ministry added.

France’s foreign ministry insisted on Thursday that the coup leaders do not have the authority to ask the ambassador to leave. Colonel Pierre Gaudilliere, a spokesperson for the French general staff, also warned that Paris’ forces “are ready to respond to any increase in tension [that] would undermine French military and diplomatic influence in Niger.