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 recognize the authority of the junta.
Asked if he would work on bringing the ambassador back home, Macron emphasized the authority of ousted Niger president Mohamed Bazoum: “I will do whatever we agree on with President Bazoum because he is the legitimate authority and I speak with him every day.”
Itte is still working, according to French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna.
“The ambassador is working, I can confirm that, and he is very useful through his contacts, his team, there is still a small team with him,” said Colonna in an interview with French TV channel LCI.
Colonna added that Itte “will stay as long as we want him to stay,” and that his return is Macron’s decision.