The French ambassador to Niger and other French diplomats are “literally being held hostage at the French embassy,” according to French President Emmanuel Macron.
Speaking to journalists during a visit to the Côte D’Or region in France on Friday, Macron said that “food was prevented from being delivered” to the embassy in Niamey, and that the ambassador was “eating military rations.”
The ambassador, Sylvain Itte, “cannot go out, he is persona non grata and he is being refused food,” Macron also said.
After seizing control of the West African country in July, the military junta ordered Itte to leave the country.
It later revoked his visa and instructed police to expel him.
But the diplomat remained in place, according to the French presidency, with French authorities reiterating that they do not recognise the authority of the junta.
Niger has faced international pressure to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum and even the threat of invasion from its neighbours in recent weeks.
Niger has been a crucial partner to the United States and other European countries, which viewed it as one of the last democratic nations in the vast Sahel region, south of the Sahara Desert, that they could partner with to fight growing jihadi violence linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.
Coups have been rampant in the region in recent years. Neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso have had two each since 2020, and ECOWAS had little influence in stopping them.
The wave of coups has taken the former colonial power in the region, France, by surprise.
Maintaining influence in the region has remained a key part of French foreign policy for decades, but many of the new regimes are hostile to the former colonisers.
Get the latest insight into some of the big stories of the day with our podcast What You Need To Know...