French President, Emmanuel Macron, has accused the Niger Military Rulers of holding its ambassador hostage.
President Macron made the statement while speaking to reporters in the eastern town of Semur-en-Auxois on Friday, alleging that the ambassador was living off military rations.
The Niger military leaders, led by General Abdourahmane Tchiani, announced a takeover on national TV in July 26 after they placed 65-year-old President Mohammed Bazoum, and his family under detainment at his official residence without fresh food and electricity.
Macron said France’s envoy to the West African country is living in the French embassy like a hostage in the French embassy as the Niger military rulers had blocked food deliveries to the mission
“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” he said.
“They are preventing food deliveries,” the French President said, apparently referring to Niger’s new military rulers. “He is eating military rations.”
The Niger military had told the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, that he had to leave the country following the July 26 coup in which they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.
However, the ambassador remained in the embassy after the 48-hour ultimatum issued in August.
The Niger military rulers were said to have cut electricity and water supply to the embassy but the ambassador in place as the French government neither complied with evacuating him nor recognising the regime.
Most of neighbouring African states have condemned the actions of the Niger military and called for restoration back to democratic rule.
President Macron said the ambassador “cannot go out, he is persona non grata and he is being refused food”.
When asked whether the French government would consider bringing him home, Macron responded: “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”
Macron has for weeks refused to evacuate the ambassador, a move supported by the EU, which has called the military demand a “provocation”.
France currently has about 1,500 soldiers in the West African country of Niger, and has said it will only negotiate any possible redeployment with ousted President Bazoum.
The new leaders, Niger military have torn up military cooperation agreements with France and asked the troops to leave quickly. Macron has for weeks rejected the call to remove the French ambassador, a stance backed by the EU which has described the demand as “a provocation”.
The EU foreign affairs spokeswoman, Nabila Massrali, in August said the EU “does not recognise” the authorities that took over power in Niger.
Macron stressed last month that France will not budge from its position of denouncing the coup by the Niger military and supporting Bazoum, emphasising that he had been chosen democratically.
“I think our policy is the right one. It’s based on the courage of President Bazoum, and on the commitments of our ambassador on the ground who is remaining despite all the pressure, despite all the declarations made by the illegitimate authorities,” said Macron.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had earlier ordered its standby force to restore constitutional order in Niger Republic.
The President of ECOWAS, Omar Alieu Touray, made the declaration while reading the resolution of ECOWAS on the Niger coup at the ECOWAS Extraordinary meeting in Abuja.
Last month, citizens of the country in their thousands queued up on outside the Niamey stadium to volunteer after the Niger military made calls for civilian auxiliary support.
The organisers of the event affirmed that the Gen. Abdourahmane Tchiani-led junta was not involved in the initiative but was only aware of it.
West African bloc, ECOWAS, had threatened the Niger military of a possible military intervention after it met on Friday to finalise the decision.
Niger’s military government had however announced that it would relinquish power back to civilian leadership after three years.