French ambassador to Niger returns to Paris


France’s ambassador to Niger has landed in Paris after weeks of tensions with the new military government in the West African country that demanded his expulsion following the overthrow of democratically-elected leader President Mohamed Bazoum.

French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna met Sylvain Itte “to thank him and his teams for his work in the service of our country under difficult conditions”, the ministry said in a written statement to AFP news agency.
Itte left Niamey with six colleagues “around 4am” (03:00 GMT), a diplomatic source had earlier told AFP.

On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron had announced in a TV interview that the ambassador would leave “in the coming hours”.

Niger’s military leaders – who had told Itte to leave the country after they overthrew Bazoum on July 26 and took away the envoy’s diplomatic immunity and visa – welcomed the announcement.

However, despite a 48-hour ultimatum for him to go back to France that was issued in August, he remained as Paris refused to comply or recognise the new military leaders. Paris had said that only Bazoum’s deposed government could order the envoy out.

Earlier this month, Macron said Itte was living like a hostage in the French embassy and accused military rulers of blocking food deliveries to the mission.

Born in the Malian capital Bamako in 1959, Itte had been in the post as ambassador to Niger for a year. He was previously ambassador to Uruguay and Angola.