French Ambassador Held Hostage in Niger Embassy: Macron Demands Action

In a recent statement, President Emmanuel Macron of France revealed that the French ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, and other French diplomats are living as hostages within the French embassy in Niamey. Macron accused the military rulers of blocking food deliveries to the embassy, leaving Itte to survive on military rations.

The ambassador has been ordered to leave the country by the military junta that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum in July. However, Itte has remained in place, as the French government refuses to recognize the legitimacy of the military regime.

Macron expressed concern over the situation and emphasized that Itte is unable to leave the embassy premises, labeling him a "persona non grata." The President also highlighted that Itte is being denied food, implying that the military rulers are responsible for blocking necessary supplies.

Macron emphasized the importance of working with President Bazoum, whom he recognizes as the legitimate authority, to address the situation and ensure the safety and well-being of Itte and the diplomatic staff.

The issue has strained relations between France and Niger, as the country's military leaders have urged France to withdraw its 1,500 soldiers and torn up military cooperation agreements. Furthermore, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has threatened military intervention if diplomatic efforts fail to restore President Bazoum to power.

France, along with the European Union, has condemned the coup and refused to recognize the military government's authority. Macron's stance on keeping the French ambassador in place has received support from the EU, with foreign affairs spokesperson Nabila Massrali describing the demand for the ambassador's removal as a provocation.

The situation in Niger is part of a larger trend of military coups in the impoverished Sahel region south of the Sahara. Countries such as Mali, Burkina Faso, and Guinea have also experienced similar political instability, with military regimes replacing elected governments.

Macron has referred to this trend as an "epidemic of coups" and emphasized the need to address and prevent further disruptions to democratic processes in the region. While Itte remains in the embassy, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna confirmed that he is still working and will continue to stay as long as determined by Paris.

Colonna emphasized the importance of Itte's contacts and the usefulness of his team. France's decision to keep Itte in place reflects their commitment to supporting President Bazoum's legitimacy and finding a resolution to the crisis through diplomatic means.

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