NIAMEY – Niger’s military junta on Friday, August 25, gave the French, German, Nigerian and US ambassadors 48 hours to quit the country.
The order came amidst escalating tension over the threat of military action from the West African bloc led by the Economic Community of West African States, (ECOWAS) to reverse the coup.
The ultimatum against the French envoy was quickly rejected by Paris, which repeated that it did not recognize the military rulers’ authority.
The move by the officers now running the country was the latest escalation in deteriorating relations between the new regime in Niamey and several Western powers, as well as the West African bloc ECOWAS.
Nigeria currently holds the presidency of ECOWAS.
Paris has repeatedly backed calls by ECOWAS for the reinstatement of president Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown on July 26.
In separate letters to their respective governments, Niger’s foreign ministry said the French, German, Nigerian and US envoys should leave the country within 48 hours.
Each letter said it was in response to the refusal of the envoys to respond to an invitation from the ministry for a meeting Friday and other actions of their respective governments “contrary to the interests of Niger”.
On Friday evening, the French foreign ministry said: “The putschists do not have the authority to make this request, the ambassador’s approval coming solely from the legitimate elected Nigerien authorities.”
France has 1,500 soldiers based in Niger who had been helping Bazoum in the fight against jihadist forces that have been active in the country for years, while the United States has around a thousand military personnel in the country.
Earlier Friday, West Africa’s bloc ECOWAS urged Niger’s coup leaders to reconsider their position and pushed for a return to civilian rule, with the threat of force still “very much on the table”.
While the generals who ousted Bazoum have called for a three-year transition period, the Economic Community of West African States demands the immediate return to constitutional order.
Niger’s northern neighbour Algeria has also warned of disastrous consequences for the region from an intervention.
Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf this week toured West African countries to try to find a solution to a crisis in which Algiers firmly opposes any military option. “There is a time for everything and we are currently in the time of finding peaceful solutions.”
“Let’s put all our imagination into giving every chance to a political solution,” he said on a visit to Benin.
Niger’s military rulers kick out Nigerian, US, and two other ambassadors.