After more than three weeks of standoff with the military in power in Niger, France was forced to acknowledge its defeat. Summoned by the putschists to leave Niger in forty-eight hours at the end of August, the French ambassador Sylvain Itté finally returned to Paris, with six of his collaborators, on the afternoon of Wednesday September 27 after a brief stopover in N ‘Djamena, the capital of Chad. Catherine Colonna, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, then received the diplomat “to thank him for his action and those of the teams around him in the service of our country, in difficult conditions”, underlines the Quai d’Orsay.
The return of Sylvain Itté was announced by Emmanuel Macron on Sunday during an interview given to the channels TF1 and France 2, during which he also announced the withdrawal of some 1,500 French soldiers present in Niger “by the end of the year “.
It had been almost a month since the junta led by Abdourahamane Tiani had demanded the departure of the ambassador and the French soldiers, but Paris had until now formally opposed their withdrawal, considering the putschists as illegitimate and only recognizing the authority of the deposed president Mohamed Bazoum. Detained by the military for two months, the latter still refuses to resign.
Faced with France’s stubbornness, the junta had increased pressure on the French diplomatic enclave in recent weeks. Paris, for its part, did not hesitate to use hyperbolic vocabulary by describing its diplomat as a “hostage”. “We have an ambassador and diplomatic members who are literally taken hostage at the embassy,” Emmanuel Macron protested in mid-September, denouncing blockages in food deliveries, forcing diplomatic staff to feed themselves with “ military rations.”
This article is originally published on lemonde.fr