Niger’s military junta has ordered police to expel the French ambassador from the country and revoked his diplomatic immunity.
Ambassador Sylvain Itte was ordered to leave the country within 48 hours last Friday, but Paris ignored the deadline. The order for Itte to leave was made in response to his refusal to meet with the new post-coup government that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.
Despite the junta’s new order for Itte to be expelled by the police, France is still refusing to comply. The French Foreign Ministry said Thursday that the ambassador will stay put and that the junta, led by Gen. Abdourahamane Tchiani, has no authority to make such an order.
According to Al Jazeera, a French military spokesman threatened military action if the situation became too tense. “The French military forces are ready to respond to any upturn in tension that could harm French diplomatic and military premises in Niger,” the spokesman said. “Measures have been take[n] to protect these premises.”
France has about 1,500 troops in the former French colony and has strongly backed threats from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to intervene in Niger if Bazoum is not reinstated. French President Emanuel Macron said this week that Paris would support such military action, which could spark a major regional war.