The military junta in Niger orders the police to expel the French ambassador

NIAMEY (August 31) – Niger’s ruling military junta ordered police to expel the French ambassador, marking a further downturn in relations, and authorities in Paris said the army officers who seized power in Niamey last month had no authority to do so. .

The coup leaders are following the strategy of the junta in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to distance themselves from the former colonial power in the region amid a wave of anti-French sentiment.

The military council said in a statement dated Aug. 29, and its authenticity was confirmed by the military communications chief on Thursday, that the visas of the French ambassador Sylvain Etty and his family had been canceled and the police had been instructed to expel the ambassador.

The instigators of the coup last Friday ordered Etty to leave the country within 48 hours in response to what they described as France’s actions “contrary to Niger’s interests.”

She added that this includes the envoy’s refusal to respond to an invitation to meet Niger’s new foreign minister.

African regional authorities and Western countries condemned the coup. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed sanctions on Niger that have impeded the delivery of food and aid to one of the world’s poorest countries.

The bloc also threatened to intervene militarily if diplomatic efforts to restore democracy through dialogue failed.

On Thursday, EU foreign ministers agreed to start drafting sanctions against the individuals behind the coup attempt.

Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is the current chair of the Economic Community of West African States, said Thursday that the military coup in Gabon this week confirmed his fears that “mock cats” might do the same in other countries.

He reiterated that military intervention should be the last resort in Niger, but said, “If we do not hold the big stick, we will all suffer the consequences together.”

France called for the reinstatement of ousted Niger’s President Mohamed Bazoum and said it would support efforts by the ECOWAS group to bring down the coup.

France has made Niger a cornerstone of counterinsurgency operations against an Islamist insurgency in the Sahel that has claimed thousands of lives over the past ten years, with some 1,500 soldiers in the country supporting the local army.

And it redefined its strategy after the withdrawal of thousands from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso in the wake of the coups there.

Paris did not officially recognize the military council’s decision to cancel the bilateral military agreements, saying that they were signed with the “legitimate authorities” in Niger.

Similarly, the French Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the coup leader had no authority to ask the ambassador to leave, adding that it was “constantly assessing the security and operational conditions of our embassy.”

On Monday, President Emmanuel Macron said the ambassador would remain in Niger and reiterated France’s support for Bazoum.

(Reporting by Bourima Bellima and Moussa Aksar in Niamey, Elizabeth Pinault in Paris and Felix Onuah in Abuja; Reporting by Mohamed for The Arabic Bulletin; Editing by Mohamed Bourima Bellema and Moussa Aksar in Niamey) Writing by Annette Mirjanian and Sophia Christensen. Edited by Alexander Wenning and John Stonestreet

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