The envoy and his family had their visas cancelled, marking a further decline in relations and increased anti-French sentiment.
Niger’s military rulers have ordered police to expel the French ambassador, a move that represents a further setback in relations that French authorities say the army officers who seized power in Niamey last month had no authority to do.
The coup leaders are following the strategy of the military governments in neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso to distance themselves from the former colonial power in the region amid a wave of anti-French sentiment.
The military administration said in a statement dated Tuesday, whose authenticity was confirmed by the head of communications on Thursday, that the visas of French Ambassador Sylvain Etty and his family were cancelled, and police were instructed to expel the ambassador.
Last Friday, the instigators of the coup, which was condemned by African leaders and Western countries, ordered Etty to leave the country within 48 hours in response to what they described as France’s actions “that conflict with Niger’s interests.”
She added that these actions included the envoy’s refusal to respond to an invitation to meet with Niger’s new Foreign Minister.
The letter, seen by Agence France-Presse, said that the envoy “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities associated with his status as a diplomatic member of the French embassy.”
“His diplomatic cards and visas and the visas of his family members have been cancelled. Police have been instructed to proceed with his expulsion.”
“damage to reputation”
Since the overthrow of the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum, the military has exploited anti-French sentiment among the population to shore up its support.
People chant “Down with France” in almost daily marches in the capital and sometimes in front of a French military base in Niamey.
France called for the ousted president’s return to office and said it would support the efforts of the Economic Community of West African States to overthrow the coup.
France has made Niger the cornerstone of its operations against armed groups in the Sahel region. Fighting has killed thousands of people over the past decade, and France has deployed about 1,500 soldiers in Niger to support its army.
Paris redefined its strategy after withdrawing thousands of its soldiers from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso after the coups there.
France has not officially recognized Niger’s military leaders’ decision to cancel bilateral military agreements, saying that those agreements were signed with the “legitimate authorities” in the country.
Similarly, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs said Thursday that the coup leaders do not have the power to ask the ambassador to leave. She added that she is “continuously evaluating the security and operational conditions of our embassy.”
“French military forces are ready to respond to any escalation of tension that could harm French diplomatic and military buildings in Niger,” warned French army spokesman Colonel Pierre Jodilier.
He added that the necessary measures have been taken to protect these buildings.
French President Emmanuel Macron said this week that the ambassador would remain in the country and reiterated France’s support for Bazoum.