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IMMINENT WARNING: FRENCH AMBASSADOR HELD HOSTAGE IN NIGER BY MILITARY JUNTA

September 15, 2023

Benedetta Bisaccia, Kyle Dillon, Flavie Curinier, Sebastien Chapel, CENTCOM/AFRICOM Team

Brantley Williams, Mia Sadler, Christina Valdez, Editor; Jennifer Loy, Chief Editor



Event: On September 15, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that the Niger military junta is holding the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, hostage inside the embassy.[2] Macron said the diplomats are not allowed to have food delivered and are limited to eating military rations. The French government refused to abide by the junta’s ultimatum for Ambassador Itte to leave the country in August.[3] France still considers President Bazoum to be Niger’s legitimate leader. Macron mentioned a potential repatriation of French forces on September 10, conditioned on an agreement with Bazoum.[4] Currently, France has roughly 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger, helping the Sahelian nation tackle jihadist groups linked to Al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Niger’s new military-led government has scrapped five security pacts with France that were signed between 1977 and 2020 and has accused France of intervening in their internal affairs.[5]


Significance: The diplomatic standoff between France and the Niger junta will very likely continue, likely impacting the security of French assets in Niger. There is a roughly even chance the failure to remove Ambassador Itte following the previous warning will limit the success of diplomatic measures. There is a roughly even chance that the junta will weaken state institutions, encouraging other non-state factions to seize authority, and take power. Instability in the Sahel will very likely persist, likely leading to increasing regional cooperation among neighboring countries. There is a likely chance that border instability will encourage extremist organizations to operate freely. Diplomatic negotiations between the junta and France are very likely underway, despite the growing anti-French sentiment. There is a roughly even chance diplomatic negotiations will include West African states that are concerned about regional security. France will likely cooperate with international organizations and regional bodies, like the UN, the African Union, and ECOWAS to facilitate diplomatic solutions. The presence of coups and insurgencies increasing in the region will likely encourage bordering countries to aid Niger such as Nigeria which has focused on combating the rise in terrorism. Macron's refusal to recognize the junta will likely weaken France's diplomatic power. There is a roughly even chance the junta will break away from relations with the West in favor of Russia, as Burkina Faso and Mali have done. The junta has previously requested assistance from the Russian-backed Wagner Group, and there is a roughly even chance President Putin will look to strengthen the relationship with Niger by providing the necessary resources. There is a roughly even chance the no-fly zone currently existing over Niger will limit any foreign intervention in Niger.


Recommendations

  • The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) recommends that Nigerian civilians remain cautious of the ongoing security situation and change in governance.

  • CTG recommends that international aid organizations be proactive toward assisting Nigeriens as conflict will likely worsen the ongoing humanitarian crisis.

  • CTG recommends that countries remove their assets from Niger for the safety of their citizens. This applies to French economic, diplomatic, and civilian interests.

  • CTG recommends the use of peaceful negotiations to resolve the situation in Niger. Diplomatic engagements should include the French government, President Bazoum, and junta leadership. All parties should be included to avoid the influence of future conflicts.

  • CTG recommends that countries in the Sahel increase their cooperation to address the security challenges posed by Niger’s instability.

  • CTG recommends international aid organizations and governments deploy impartial observers to oversee diplomatic negotiations to ensure transparency and accountability.

  • CTG recommends that international and regional organizations, such as the UN, EU, and African Union, deepen their cooperation to prevent the continuation of coups in Africa.

  • CTG recommends international intelligence agencies to monitor terrorist organizations that might exploit Niger’s instability. Intelligence agencies and security forces should collaborate to take a proactive approach in combating this potential threat.

  • If there is any additional and or critical information please contact us at The Counterterrorism Group (CTG) by Telephone 202-643-2848 or email info@counterterrorismgroup.com

 

[2] French ambassador in Niger being held hostage by junta, Macron says, Reuters, September 2023, https://www.reuters.com/world/french-ambassador-niger-being-held-hostage-by-junta-macron-says-2023-09-15/

[3] French ambassador to Niger 'held hostage' in embassy, President Macron says, France 24, September 2023, https://www.france24.com/en/africa/20230915-french-ambassador-to-niger-held-hostage-in-embassy-president-macron-says

[4] Niger: Emmanuel Macron claims that the French ambassador is “taken hostage” inside the embassy, Le Monde, September 2023, https://www.lemonde.fr/afrique/article/2023/09/15/niger-emmanuel-macron-affirme-que-l-ambassadeur-de-france-est-pris-en-otage-a-l-interieur-de-l-ambassade_6189592_3212.html

[5] Niger junta revokes military deals with France, Reuters, August 2023 https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/west-african-defence-chiefs-mull-response-niger-coup-2023-08-03/

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