During a major foreign policy speech to ambassadors gathered in Paris on Monday, France President Macron confirmed that French envoy Sylvain Itte was listening in from Niger capital Niamey despite being given a 48-hour deadline to leave the nation last Friday.
“France and its diplomats have faced particularly difficult situations in some countries in recent months, from Sudan, where France has been exemplary, to Niger at this very moment and I applaud your colleague and your colleagues who are listening from their posts,” he said.
Niger President Mohamed Bazoum was toppled on July 26 and has been detained along with his family at the presidential palace in a coup that has been condemned by France and most of Niger’s neighbours.
On Friday, Niger’s foreign ministry announced that French ambassador Itte had 48 hours to leave, saying he had refused to meet with the new rulers and citing French government actions that were “contrary to the interests of Niger”.
Macron insisted that France would not change position in condemning the coup and offering support to Bazoum, stressing he had been democratically elected and was being “courageous” by refusing to resign.
“Our policy is clear: we do not recognise the putschists,” Macron said.
France has consistently acknowledged only the authority of Bazoum. He is still detained by the junta, which is now under sanctions by Western and regional African powers.
“One shouldn’t give in to the narrative used by the coup leaders that consists of saying France has become our enemy,” Macron said Monday.
’’The problem of Nigeriens today is the coup leaders who put them in danger because they are abandoning the fight against terrorism, because they are abandoning a policy that was economically good for (the population) and they are in the process of losing international funding that was helping them emerge from poverty.”
France has about 1,500 troops in Niger helping local forces fight Islamic extremists. The military cooperation has been suspended since the coup, whose leaders say Bazoum’s government wasn’t doing enough to protect the country.