FACT CHECK: Was French ambassador to Niger chased out of the embassy as claimed in a viral video?
In mid-September, a video went viral with claims that the French ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itté, has been chased out of the embassy and out of the West African country by Niger soldiers.
The video in question portrays a crowd yelling “voleur” (thief in French) as soldiers guide a white man out of a building and into a waiting white SUV vehicle.
The crowd, most of whom had a smartphone, were seen recording and shouting “voleur”, “voleur”, “voleur” as the white man walked silently into the waiting vehicle.
Decoding the Misinformation
However, several elements in the video contradict the claim that it was shot in Niger. The attire of the individuals in the video is not in line with the typical dress code seen in Niger, a predominantly Muslim country.
The camouflage pattern on the soldiers’ uniforms is also different from that worn by Nigerien soldiers. Moreover, the man identified as the French ambassador in the video is not Sylvain Itté, who is the actual ambassador.
The True Identity of the Man in the Video
The man in the video is Prof Lee White, Gabon’s minister of water and environment in charge of climate change and land-use planning.
He was expelled from office following a coup in Gabon. The building featured in the video is located in Libreville, the capital of Gabon, and houses the country’s ministry of water resources and forestry, not the French embassy in Niger.
Understanding the Political Climate in Niger
Indeed, the military in Niger took over power in a coup in June 2023 and requested the French ambassador and French troops to depart. However, France declined, stating that it did not acknowledge the authority of the military leaders.
French President Emmanuel Macron accused the Nigerien military rulers of blocking food supplies to the French embassy and claimed that the ambassador was still inside the embassy, essentially living as a hostage. Therefore, the claim that the ambassador is the man in the viral video is false.
Conclusion: Unraveling the Truth
In conclusion, BNN Network can confirm that the viral video claiming to showcase the French ambassador to Niger being forced out of the French embassy in Niger is FALSE.
The video was actually filmed in Gabon, Central Africa, and the man being escorted out of the building by soldiers is not the French ambassador to Niger, but Prof Lee White, the then minister of water and environment in Gabon.
The building in the video is also not the French embassy in Niger, as claimed, but the ministry of water resources and forestry in Gabon.
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