French Ambassador Sylvain Itte is living off “military rations” in Niger, according to President Emmanuel Macron. The ambassador is accused of being held hostage in the French embassy and being prevented from receiving food deliveries. Niger’s military leaders had told Itte he had to leave the country after overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26. However, a 48-hour ultimatum for him to leave was issued in August, and he remains in place as the French government refuses to comply or recognize the military government as legitimate. France and most of Niger’s neighboring countries have condemned the coup.
Macron said the envoy cannot go out, as he is persona non grata and is being refused food. He will do whatever is agreed with President Bazoum, as he is the legitimate authority and speaks with him daily. France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger and has rejected the call to remove the French ambassador, a stance backed by the EU. The EU does not acknowledge the authorities who seized power in Niger.
The impoverished Sahel region has suffered an “epidemic” of coups in recent years, with military regimes replacing elected governments in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea, and Niger. Niger is in a conflict with ECOWAS, which has threatened military intervention if diplomatic pressure to return Bazoum to office fails.