France’s ambassador to Niger landed in Paris on Wednesday after leaving Niamey following weeks of tensions between Paris and the post-coup regime in the West African country, the foreign ministry told AFP.
The return of the ambassador, Sylvain Itte, comes two months after a coup in Niger ousted its pro-Paris president and prompted a souring in relations between France and its former colony, with Niger’s new rulers demanding his departure.
In a written statement to AFP, the ministry said that Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna had met with Itte “to thank him and his teams for his work in the service of our country under difficult conditions”.
A French diplomatic source and a Nigerien government source said early Wednesday that Itte had left the capital Niamey.
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The development comes after weeks of the post-coup military leaders in the West African country demanding his expulsion.
“The ambassador and six colleagues left Niamey around 4:00 am (0300 GMT),” the diplomatic source from the French embassy said.
A source in the Niger interior ministry confirmed the departure and said the plane was headed towards Chad.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would withdraw its ambassador from Niger, followed by the French military contingent in the coming months — both demands of the post-coup regime in Niamey.
Niger’s leaders, who overthrew the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, welcomed the announcement by France but said they were waiting for it to be followed up by official actions.
The regime had been demanding Itte’s departure since the end of August.
They took away his diplomatic immunity and visa, but Paris had refused until now to withdraw him.
France has not recognised the authority of the military leaders and is still demanding Bazoum’s restoration.