Niger’s military leaders had asked Sylvain Itte to leave the country after overthrowing democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum.
The French ambassador to Niger has landed in Paris after weeks of tensions with the West African country’s new military government which demanded his expulsion following the overthrow of democratically elected 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 in difficult conditions”, the ministry said in a written statement to the AFP news agency.
Itte left Niamey with six colleagues “around 4 a.m.” (03:00 GMT), a diplomatic source previously told AFP.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced in a television interview that the ambassador would leave “in the coming hours”.
Niger’s military leaders – who had asked Itte to leave the country after overthrowing Bazoum on July 26 and revoking the envoy’s diplomatic immunity and visa – welcomed the announcement.
However, despite a 48-hour ultimatum to return to France in August, he stayed as Paris refused to comply or recognize the new military leaders. Paris had declared that only Bazoum’s deposed government could order the envoy’s departure.
Earlier this month, Macron said Itte was living like a hostage at the French embassy and accused military leaders of blocking food deliveries to the mission.
Born in Bamako, the Malian capital, in 1959, Itte had been ambassador to Niger for a year. He was previously ambassador to Uruguay and Angola.
“Return to constitutional order”
On Wednesday, Macron’s office reiterated France’s support for ousted President Bazoum.
He had declared to Hassoumi Massaoudou, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the overthrown government, that France would continue to work “for a return to constitutional order in Niger”, indicated the Elysée.
Macron, in a television interview on Sunday – in addition to announcing the departure of Ambassador Itte – said French troops would withdraw from Niger in “the months and weeks to come” with a complete withdrawal “by end of the year”, another requirement of the Nigerien Regime.
In the interview, the French president also said that military cooperation between the two nations was “finished.”
In Niamey, thousands of people demonstrate almost daily around a military base housing French soldiers to demand their departure. France has around 1,500 troops in the country as part of a broader fight against groups linked to Al-Qaeda and ISIS.
The coup against Bazoum was the third such coup in the region in as many years, following similar actions in the former French colonies of Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022, respectively.
Previous coups also forced the withdrawal of French troops.