The European Union’s top diplomat has voiced solidarity with France’s ambassador to Niger, who has faced intense pressure after refusing to comply with expulsion orders from the military leaders and leave the country.
“We also stress again our solidarity with France, over the situation of its ambassador on the ground, full solidarity with France and full support to President Bazoum,” EU foreign policy chief Josep Borell told reporters after the bloc’s foreign ministers met on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The EU’s top diplomat also stressed the bloc’s “full solidarity” with Bazoum, the elected president who has been detained by the military, praising his “courage and determination.” Borrell also noted that the Europeans agreed on the need to design a “new approach” in their strategy in the Sahel, where France in particular has led years of efforts aimed at defeating jihadists. “We insisted on the idea that we need African solutions for African problems,” he said.
After sacking the democratically elected government of Mohamed Bazoum on 26 July, the military said it was expelling French Ambassador Sylvain Itte, but the former colonial power does not recognize the authority of the putschists. Itte was “literally being held hostage” in the embassy, President Emmanuel Macron said last week, adding that the ambassador was living off military rations after the military cut off deliveries of supplies. Niger’s military junta said it had had cancelled Sylvain Itte’s and his family’s visa, as well as revoked his diplomatic immunity and instructed the police to expel him.