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Persona non grata of French Ambassador to Niger


Paris, Toronto (17/9 – 37)

The French ambassador to Niger and other French diplomats “were actually held hostage in the French embassy” during the emergency following the military junta coup d’état that gave the boot to Mohamed Bazoum, Niger’s elected president, on July 26. A violent confrontation loomed, as President Bazoum refused to give in to the military and step down. Soon after the coup, Niger’s military junta moved to expel the US, German, Nigerian and French ambassadors, amid suspicions of potential foreign pressure to impel a military intervention by The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Meanwhile, with a membership of 15 West African countries, ECOWAS has continued to press for President Bazoum to be allowed to resume his presidential post. (How often does that ever happen after a military coup d’état?)

ECOWAS countries historically share cultural and geopolitical ties and certain economic interests, many linked to Europe. Niger, a French colony for more than 50 years before becoming independent in the 1960s, is a key source of uranium for French nuclear reactors. 

The Niger military junta stated that it would expel the French ambassador in response to actions by the French government that were “contrary to Niger’s interests,” the junta said in a statement.

Speaking to journalists during a visit to the Côte D’Or region on Friday (15/9/2023), French President Emmanuel Macron said that “food deliveries are prohibited” to the Embassy in Niamey, capital of Niger, and that Ambassador Sylvain Itte “could not go out, is declared a persona non grata and is “eating military rations.” 

When asked whether he would seek to repatriate his ambassador, Macron emphasized the authority of Niger’s ousted President Bazoum, saying, “I will do whatever we agreed with President Bazoum, because he is the legitimate authority and I talk to him every day.”

The coup has prompted a significant hurt response from ECOWAS, which urged Niger’s military leaders to reassess their move, predicting a “very likely” possibility of violence. 

“Even now, it is not too late for the military to reconsider its actions and listen to reason, because regional leaders will not allow a coup,” ECOWAS commission president Omar Alieu Touray threatened, when addressing journalists in Abuja. “The real problem is the people’s determination to stop the coup spiral in the region,” he added. Inasmuch as ECOWAS is seen as a tool of NATO and European/American economic interests, Niger is naturally intent on rebuffing such threats. 

In fact, ECOWAS has imposed sanctions on Guinea, whose military also recently deposed its reviled leader. Alleging authoritarian rule instead of democratic representation, regional bloc leaders attending the UN General Assembly refused recognition of the newly-installed military government.

“Democracy in Africa” has become synonymous with kleptocracy, as ultra-corrupt African strongmen conspire with western bankers and corporate interests to amass huge fortunes, squired offshore. Last year’s military coup by mutinous soldiers, led by Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, a senior officer in the Guinean military, ousted corrupt former president Alpha Conde, who had fiddled with the Guinean constitution to allow him to run for a third term; this was illegal and set off a massive outcry. It reflects the same sorry story of desperate, hungry, ignored populations in run-down, broken countries with crumbling infrastructure, where cabals of big shots siphon off wealth and stash it in happy banks abroad.

While ECOWAS is demanding an immediate return to constitutional order, Niger’s military leaders have warned the bloc against any intervention, accusing it of preparing an occupying force in collaboration with foreign warriors.

Note that Guinea historically is a key economic partner, maintaining good relations with the Russian Federation, keen on its bauxite deposits; the day after the military takeover, current president Doumboya received a delegation from Russia in Conakry. Reserves of bauxite, the raw material for aluminum smelting, have shrunken dramatically across the globe in recent years.

African nations who sided with NATO on the Ukraine conflict, condemning Russia’s military operation as an “invasion” and imposing sanctions, now find themselves struggling with unprecedented inflation, shortages of oil and gas and food insecurity. Malawi is one such example. Europeans nod sadly, their sacrifice America’s gain.

Africa can plainly witness the energy crisis in Europe, as NATO, champion of  modern democracy, has incurred an acute credibility problem. Cracks are appearing between NATO & the EU: Total Energies, a French company, is going ahead with its oil pipeline project in Uganda, despite a EU resolution against it; a Financial Action Task Force is accusing France of “terror-funding”. Seeing its political and economic battle with Russia slipping, and legacy “client states” piling into BRICS++, the US is making desperate attempts to establish ties in Africa, including a proposal to lifting sanctions on Zimbabwe after almost two decades. 

The west has thus decided to gang up on Guinea, to teach others a lesson, and ensure that it does not conclude more trade deals with Russia. The People’s Republic of China is undoubtedly watching all this closely.

Former “democratically-elected” Guinea President Alpha Conde became notorious for killing peaceful protestors, imprisoning opposition activists and crushing dissent – before falling victim to a military coup. 

Meanwhile, NATO, the EU, the UN and its “client states” in Africa openly interfere in former colonies’ internal affairs, under the garb of establishing democracy and rule of law. 

What will become of Niger? Like other newly-independent African republics, it will be next to impossible to hold onto power and develop the nation without some kind of foreign support or alliance, whether linked with Western interests or Eastern ones. Its new leaders may have to hold their collective nose before concluding agreements with the “best of the bad” outsiders, as ordinary hungry Africans are unhappy about the lack of law and progress in their countries. At this point, with big-bellied children scrounging for food, democracy is of little interest to the masses.

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