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Niger’s military rulers orders police to kick out French ambassador after ultimatum

Niger's military rulers have revoked the diplomatic immunity of France's ambassador and ordered police to expel him from the African country, according to a statement.

The latest communique sent by Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said French Ambassador Sylvain Itte “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as a member of the diplomatic staff of the embassy.”

The document also said the diplomatic cards and visas of the ambassador’s families have been canceled.

The military said in a recent statement that the visas of the ambassador and his family were canceled.

The credentials of the French ambassador to Niger were just withdrawn by the Niger military, which gave Itte 48 hours to leave the country last week. The deadline expired on August 28.

The new military rulers say the ambassador refused to meet with them. They say the French government’s behavior is “contrary to the interests of Niger.”

President Emmanuel Macron has said France’s ambassador to Niger will stay in the coup-hit African country despite the ultimatum by the new military leaders to leave.

Macron has also reiterated France’s support for Niger’s ousted president Mohamed Bazoum. He dismissed calls from some in the United States and Europe for Western powers to give up on Bazoum.

The French Foreign Ministry in Paris said on Thursday that the people involved in the military coup in Niger had “no authority” to ask France’s ambassador in Niamey to leave.

“We constantly evaluate the safety and operating conditions of our embassy,” the ministry added.

Macron said on Monday that the ambassador would stay in the Sahel country.

Protesters call for France to withdraw troops

Hundreds of women protested outside the French embassy and a military base in Niamey, calling for France to remove its troops and military bases from the country. They banged on pots, pretended to sweep and chanted anti-French slogans.

Others gathered in front of the 101 Squadron airbase to protest and show support for Niger’s defense and security forces. They also demanded the withdrawal of French troops stationed at the base.

Ousmane Naomi, one of the protest organizers, stated, “We are here to convey to France that times have changed. They must respect us and acknowledge our importance.”

Massive protests in support of the military also emerged on the streets of Niamey.

Niger’s neighbor such as Mali and Burkina Faso have warned against any military intervention, warning that it would be a “declaration of war” against them too.

Burkina approves sending troops to Niger

Burkina Faso’s government on Thursday approved a bill authorizing the dispatch of troops to neighboring Niger, which faces threatened military intervention.

The draft law was approved in a meeting of Burkina’s military-dominated government, according to a statement seen Thursday.

It gave no details about the deployment of the force but said the decision had been made “by a joint agreement” between the two countries.

“What affects security in Niger fundamentally affects security in Burkina Faso,” the statement quoted Defense Minister Kassoum Coulibaly as saying.

Italy warns against military intervention

Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said on Thursday that a military intervention in Niger would be a “disaster” that could trigger a new migration crisis.

“We need to work day by day for a diplomatic solution,” Tajani told reporters as he arrived at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in the Spanish city of Toledo.

Asked if he feared military intervention could lead to a migration crisis, Tajani replied: “Yes, of course. To have a war in Niger (means) more people leaving this country, as in Sudan -there are more and more people leaving Sudan.”

Anti-French sentiments on rise across Africa

The impoverished Sahel region, which lies south of the Sahara, has suffered a series of coups in recent years. Military administrations have replaced pro-Western leaders in Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea as well as Niger.

The upheavals have led to the creation of new military governments hostile to France, a former colonial power in West Africa that has troops across the region.

Earlier this month, the military rulers scrapped a series of Niger’s cooperation agreements with France in a bid to bring to a close the French military presence across the country and the subsequent looting of the resources of the impoverished nation.

France has between 1,000 and 1,500 troops in Niger, who are claiming to be fighting the so-called war on terrorism. In Niger, there are not only French forces but American and European soldiers as well.

Burkina Faso and Mali have already expelled French troops, many of whom are now stationed in Niger.

The French president recently admitted the failure of France’s policies across various parts of Africa.

“France and its diplomats have faced particularly difficult situations in some countries in recent months, from Sudan, where France has been exemplary, to Niger…,” Macron said on Monday.

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