French Ambassador Sylvain Itte Finally Departs Niger
Following weeks of escalating tension between France and Niger’s post-coup regime, France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, along with six colleagues, have departed the country.
This comes two months after a coup ousted Niger’s pro-Paris president, souring relations between France and its former colony.
The military leaders in Niger, who overthrew the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum, demanded Itte’s expulsion. They removed his diplomatic immunity and issued a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave the country. However, Itte remained in Niger as the French government refused to acknowledge the military regime’s legitimacy.
Withdrawal of French Troops
Additionally, President Emmanuel Macron announced the withdrawal of French troops from Niger by the end of the year, stating the military cooperation was ‘over’. This development has been welcomed by Niger as a ‘new step towards sovereignty’.
The United States, which also has military personnel in Niger, is currently evaluating its future steps following France’s announcement.
Tensions and International Implications
The relations between France and Niger have been strained since the coup, with daily protests in front of the French embassy. The withdrawal of French troops and the ambassador is seen as a significant blow to France’s policy in Africa, where French troops have had to pull out of neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in recent years after coups in those countries.
France had stationed thousands of troops in the Sahel region at the request of African leaders to fight against extremist groups. However, tensions mounted between France and Niger following the coup, with Macron stating French diplomats were surviving on military rations as they remained in the embassy.
The closure of Niger’s airspace to French planes was another measure taken by the military regime to retake total control of its skies and its territory.
Impact on Niger and the Sahel Region
Experts believe that the withdrawal of French support in Niger’s fight against violent extremist groups could have a significant impact on the country as well as the region. France has been a reliable partner providing support to Niger’s operations, and the void left by France may not be easily filled in the short to mid-term.
The Sahel region, stretching to central Mali, northern Burkina Faso, and western Niger, has been a hotspot for violence by armed groups linked to Al Qaeda and ISIL.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions after the July coup and warned that it could intervene militarily if diplomatic efforts to return Bazoum to power fail.
This latest development with France could have implications for the region’s stability and the fight against terrorism.
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Sylvain Itté, the French ambassador has finally left Niamey· 2 months ago
[…] A first victory for the Niger authorities and the people of Niger. Sylvain Itté, the French ambassa… to Niger, finally left the country on Tuesday night after Emmanuel Macron announced his return to Paris on Sunday. […]