French President, Emmanuel Macron has revealed that the country’s envoy to Niger and his staff are “literally” living like hostages in the embassy.
Macron said envoy Sylvain Itte remains persona non grata while accusing the Niger junta of blocking food deliveries to the consulate where the diplomatic staff is living in miserable conditions.
“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” Macron told reporters during a visit to Burgundy.
“They are preventing food deliveries. He is eating military rations,” he added.
Asked if his government was planning to bring Itte back home, Macron said: “I will do whatever we agree with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”
The military junta, who overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, had told Itte that he was to leave the country as soon as possible. However, even after the 48-hour ultimatum lapsed, the French government refused to comply as well recognise the military regime as legitimate.
Macron has for weeks rejected the call to remove the French ambassador, a stance backed by the EU which has described the demand as a “provocation.”
Like France, the EU “does not recognise” the authorities that seized power in Niger, said EU foreign affairs spokeswoman Nabila Massrali last month.
According to Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, the ambassador “is working” in the consulate and would stay at his post, as long as his country demands.
“He is very useful for us with his contacts and those of his team,” Colonna was quoted as saying by French media reports.
On July 26, Bazoum was overthrown when members of his guard detained him at the presidency. After the military junta seized power, General Abdourahamane Tiani was made the new head of the state.
West African bloc, ECOWAS has been trying to negotiate with the junta but to no avail.