French President Emmanuel Macron says France’s ambassador to Niger is staying at his post despite being ordered to leave the country by Niger’s new military leaders.
Macron told a gathering of French ambassadors in Paris Monday that Ambassador Sylvain Itte “is remaining despite pressure.”
He also rejected concerns that standing up to the junta in Niger could be dangerous, insisting, “Our policy is the right one.”
Itte was asked to leave Niger within 48 hours in a letter Friday from the Nigerian Foreign Ministry. The ultimatum was given after Itte refused to meet with the military leaders who ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in a coup in July.
Bazoum and his family have been detained by the military in the presidential palace.
Niger is a former French colony, and France still has 1,500 soldiers in the African country. They have helped Niger to fight jihadi forces.
Thousands of Nigeriens took to the streets of Niamey, the capital, Sunday to show their support for the military officers who deposed Bazoum.
France has not recognized Niger’s new leaders, saying that Bazoum’s government remains the only legitimate authority in Niger.
France has also agreed with the West African bloc ECOWAS and its calls for Bazoum’s reinstatement.
Macron said Monday that France’s policy “depends on the courage of President Mohamed Bazoum, the commitment of our diplomats, of our ambassador on the ground.”
He dismissed the view of junta leaders who have blamed much of Niger’s problems on its former colonial ruler.
“One shouldn’t give in to the narrative used by the coup leaders that consists of saying France has become our enemy,” Macron said.
Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who is also the chair of ECOWAS, has been invited to meet with U.S. President Joe Biden next month on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, where the two leaders are likely to discuss Niger.
ECOWAS has threatened to use military force in Niger to restore Bazoum to power.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.