- French ambassador finally leaves Niger.
- Departed to Paris with 6 other colleagues on Wednesday.
France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, departed from the capital Niamey early Wednesday morning, after weeks of tensions between Paris and the post-coup regime in the West African country.
Itte and six colleagues left Niamey around 4:00 am (0300 GMT) on a plane headed towards Chad, a diplomatic source from the French embassy said. A source in the Niger interior ministry confirmed the departure.
The departure 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.
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On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced on television that Itte would leave Niger “in the next hours” but gave no details.
Niger’s military leaders, who overthrew the democratically elected president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, welcomed the announcement but said they were waiting for it to be followed up by official actions.
They had told Itte to leave the country after they overthrew Bazoum and took away the envoy’s diplomatic immunity and visa. But a 48-hour ultimatum for him to go, issued in August, passed with him still in place, as the French government refused to comply or recognise the military regime as legitimate.
The departure of Itte is a further sign of the deteriorating relations between France and Niger, which has been a key ally in the fight against jihadist insurgents in the Sahel region.
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France has a long history of military intervention in Niger, and its troops have been deployed in the country since 2013. However, public support for the French presence has waned in recent years, amid growing frustration over the failure to contain the jihadist insurgency.
The coup in July was the fourth in Niger’s history since independence from France in 1960. The military leaders have said they will restore civilian rule within two years, but there is scepticism among observers about their commitment to this timeline.