He will remember July 26, 2023 all his life when the military took power. In a first interview since his return, the French ambassador to Niger Sylvain Itté, chased out of the country by the perpetrators of the coup, said he was “tired” on Thursday, on the TF1 channel, after two months “of extreme tension” and several weeks recluse in his embassy in Niamey.
The diplomat, who returned to France on Wednesday, estimated that this coup was a “huge waste” in which “there are only losers”.
A case of fighting corruption
According to him, “this putsch is first and foremost, we must be aware of it, a Niger-Nigerian affair between a president who had decided to fight against corruption and a certain number of generals who did not wish to May this fight against corruption reach its conclusion,” he stressed. Under the influence of an expulsion decision decreed by the military in power at the end of August, the diplomat would have been immediately expelled from the country if he had left his embassy.
France initially decided not to comply with this expulsion order, claiming to recognize only the legitimate government of President Mohamed Bazoum, overthrown by the coup.
But after indicating that the ambassador, “taken hostage”, was only surviving thanks to military rations, President Emmanuel Macron resolved last Sunday to announce his return to France and departure by the end of the year of 1,500 French soldiers deployed in Niger.
The private embassy of supplies
Nigerien companies supplying supplies to the embassy were “dissuaded, even threatened” by the new power, and ended up no longer coming, revealed Sylvain Itté.
“We had to take out the trash without our friends in the junta noticing,” he said. “It was about bringing in food, water, again by showing ingenuity,” he said. “Very clearly, the objective was to make me break down, and therefore to get me out.” The diplomat says he is “tired after two months of extreme tension, but still ready to continue” his mission.
He also returned to the violent demonstration which targeted the French embassy on July 30, a few days after the coup: “The attack lasted more than 2.5 hours. That day, we were collectively in danger and we came very, very close to the tragedy, because there were more than 6,000 people who were there to fight it out, who were there to enter the embassy.”