Niger junta orders French ambassador to leave within 48 hours

In a rapid deterioration of bilateral ties, Niger’s coup leaders have given the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, 48 hours to leave the country. The junta made this decision after Itte refused to respond to an invitation to meet Niger’s foreign minister. France, a former colonial power, responded by stating that the junta has no authority to order such an expulsion. The French foreign ministry emphasized that the ambassador’s approval comes solely from the legitimate elected Nigerien authorities. This eviction order follows a series of statements and demonstrations from Niger hostile towards France.
The deteriorating relationship between Niger and France stems from France’s opposition to the July coup and their support for the reinstatement of ousted President Mohammed Bazoum. In response to Friday’s announcement, the French foreign ministry noted that it had “taken note of the putschists”. This dispute highlights the complex power dynamics between former colonial powers and their former colonies, as well as the challenges associated with democratic transitions in the West African region.
Last week, Gen Abdourahamane Tchiani, Niger’s coup leader, promised to return the country to civilian rule within three years. This pledge came after a meeting with mediators from the West African regional bloc Ecowas in the capital, Niamey. However, Ecowas has threatened military action to reverse President Bazoum’s overthrow if negotiations fail. The coup leader warned that Niger does not want a war but will defend itself against any foreign intervention, emphasizing that an attack on Niger would not be an easy task.
Ecowas has imposed sanctions on Niger, including cutting off electricity and blocking crucial imports. As a result, the country has experienced blackouts and soaring food prices, with lorry drivers waiting for weeks to bring in supplies. Despite the coup leader’s three-year timeframe for transition, Ecowas rejected this proposal and insisted on a shorter handover period.
The international community, particularly the United States and France, has supported regional efforts to reverse the coup. Both countries have military bases in Niger as part of their efforts to combat jihadist groups in the Sahel region. The coup in Niger mirrors recent takeovers in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mali, highlighting the instability in the wider Sahel region.
It is important to closely monitor the ongoing tensions between Niger and France. The expulsion of the French ambassador signifies a significant deterioration in bilateral relations, with potential implications for economic, political, and security cooperation between the two countries. Additionally, the response from Ecowas and the international community will be crucial in determining the outcome of the political transition in Niger and whether military intervention will be required.
It is essential for policymakers to carefully consider the implications of any foreign intervention in Niger. The coup leader has warned against military action, emphasizing the potential exacerbation of Islamist insurgencies linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group. Balancing the need for democratic stability with security concerns in the Sahel region will be a complex and delicate task.
Overall, the situation in Niger highlights the challenges associated with democratic transitions, foreign interventions, and regional dynamics in the West African Sahel region. The response from international actors, especially France, the US, and Ecowas, will be crucial in shaping the future trajectory of Niger’s political landscape.