Tensions between the military junta that orchestrated a coup in Niamey on July 26 and the French government have intensified as the junta orders the expulsion of the French ambassador, compelling the diplomat to exit Niger within 48 hours.
The announcement of this diplomatic move was delivered through an official statement issued on Friday by Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The statement revealed that the decision to expel the French ambassador was a response to his refusal to attend a scheduled meeting with the country’s minister. The ministry further indicated that the French government’s actions had been inconsistent with Niger’s interests, though no specific details were provided regarding these actions.
As of the time of reporting, the French Foreign Affairs Ministry has not issued an official response to this development.
The relationship between the military junta and the French government has been strained since the coup unfolded. France has consistently called for the reinstatement of President Mohamed Bazoum after he was removed from power. The junta, on the other hand, has accused French forces of releasing captured “terrorists” and violating airspace restrictions to destabilize Niger.
It is worth recalling that the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed significant economic sanctions on Niger in response to the coup. Additionally, the bloc has kept open the possibility of employing military force against the junta. ECOWAS approved the deployment of a “standby force to restore constitutional order” in Niger. However, the regional organization remains dedicated to resolving the crisis through diplomatic means.
Niger hosts approximately 1,500 French troops that aid in combating jihadist groups in the Sahel region. This presence has been instrumental in addressing security challenges that have persisted for years. The expulsion of the French ambassador raises concerns about the future of diplomatic relations between Niger and France, as well as the broader implications for regional stability in the Sahel.