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Niger’s military regime expels French ambassador, revokes diplomatic immunity

A statement from Niger's military regime says the junta has revoked the diplomatic immunity of France’s ambassador and ordered police to expel him from the African country...


Niger’s military regime expels French ambassador, revokes diplomatic immunity

Niger’s military junta has taken decisive action by revoking the diplomatic immunity of France’s ambassador and ordering the police to expel him from the country. The mutinous soldiers, who overthrew Niger’s president a month ago, gave French Ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave the West African nation.

Despite the expiration of the deadline on August 28, France has not recalled Ambassador Itte, as they do not recognize the coup-plotters as the legitimate leaders of Niger.

READ ALSO: Tensions escalate in Niger as military junta expels French Ambassador, other foreign envoys

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Niger released a communique stating that Ambassador Itte “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status.” The diplomatic cards and visas of the ambassador’s family members have also been canceled. However, France’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Anne-Claire Legendre, reiterated that the ambassador remains in his position despite the expulsion threats.

The military junta has capitalized on anti-French sentiment among the population to bolster its support since the overthrow of President Mohamed Bazoum. Daily rallies in the capital, Niamey, and in front of a French military base in the city have seen people chanting slogans against France.

Prior to the coup, France had approximately 1,500 military personnel in Niger, conducting joint operations with Nigerien security forces to combat the growing jihadi insurgency linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group. However, these operations have ceased since the coup, and terrorist attacks have been on the rise.

The expulsion of the French ambassador and the revocation of his diplomatic immunity pose a challenge for France. While France has expressed support for the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in restoring an appropriate government in Niger, it also needs to safeguard the well-being of its diplomatic staff. The situation puts France in a difficult position as it navigates between recognizing the military authority in Niger and protecting its reputation in its former African colonies.

It remains to be seen how this diplomatic standoff between Niger’s military regime and France will unfold. While the threat of military intervention backed by ECOWAS forces looms, the catastrophic implications of a regional war and heightened anti-French sentiment may deter France from taking such action.

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