France closes embassy in Niger amid rising tensions after coup News
Vincent van Zeijst, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
France closes embassy in Niger amid rising tensions after coup

France announced Tuesday the closure of its embassy in Niger until further notice. The decision comes in the aftermath of the souring relations between the two nations with colonial history after the July coup in Niger, which resulted in the overthrowing of President Mohamed Bazoum’s administration.

In a statement on Tuesday, the French Ministry for Foreign Affairs announced the closure of its embassy in Niger. Meanwhile, it clarified that the embassy will continue functioning from Paris. The ministry’s statement explained:

For the past five months, our Embassy has been subjected to major obstacles that have made it impossible to do its job: a blockade around the Embassy, restrictions on employee movements, and the turning away of all diplomatic personnel who were supposed to arrive in Niger, in clear violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

The Embassy will continue operating from Paris. It will maintain ties with French nationals in Niger and with the NGOs that work in the humanitarian sector and which we continue to fund, directly benefiting the country’s most vulnerable people. Consular activities will be carried out by our consulates in the region.

Colonel Major Amadou Abdramane had announced a coup in Niger on state television in July, citing deteriorating security, poor economic conditions, and social governance as reasons. The elite presidential guard, now named the National Council for the Safeguarding of the Country (NCSC), had surrounded Bazoum. Despite being held captive, Bazoum had expressed defiance, vowing to safeguard Niger’s democratic achievements. The international community, including the US, UN, and African Union, had condemned the coup, calling for Bazoum’s immediate release. Following the coup, the African Union had also suspended Niger. Bazoum, elected in 2021, had previously marked Niger’s first democratic transfer of power after years of power struggles and coups.

Sentiments against France had become widespread following the coup. Protesters gathered outside a French military base in Niamey, Niger, demanding the withdrawal of French troops following the July 26 coup. The demonstration, which was the largest since the coup, reflected strained relations between Niger’s junta and France. President Bazoum, an ally of France, remained detained, leading to the junta annulling military agreements with France and requesting the departure of 1,500 French soldiers, a demand rejected by France. Tensions escalated with the withdrawal of French Ambassador Sylvain Itte, prompting President Macron to defy the junta’s request and express support for Bazoum. Niger had accused Macron of attempting to use Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for France’s interests. Furthermore, Stéphane Jullien, an advisor to French citizens in Niger, was detained and subsequently released.

The Sahel region of West Africa, including Niger, has encountered substantial challenges, with recent coups occurring in multiple countries. In 2021, over two million people were displaced due to violence from armed groups, government forces and criminal gangs. UN reports highlighted a complex trafficking network in the area involving firearms, medical products, fuel and migrants. Additionally, a March report indicated that approximately ten million children in the Sahel urgently require humanitarian assistance.