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Niger's Military Rulers Order UN Official Out Within 72 Hours
Tensions escalate as Niger's junta demands the immediate departure of top UN diplomat amid accusations of exclusion and diplomatic struggles.
Niger's junta has issued an ultimatum, demanding that the head of the United Nations' diplomatic mission in the country vacate their position within 72 hours. The junta has accused the UN of sidelining Niger by not including them in its General Assembly last month, a move that has strained diplomatic relations.
The military officers who took control in a coup back in July were notably absent from the global gathering of world leaders in New York. Responding to these allegations, a UN spokesperson based in Niamey declined to comment immediately.
In an official statement dated October 10, Niger's foreign ministry accused the UN of employing "covert tactics" allegedly orchestrated by France to hinder Niger's full participation in both the UN General Assembly and subsequent meetings of UN agencies held in Vienna and Riyadh.
Madam Louise Aubin has been serving in her capacity since January 2021. During the 78th session of the UN General Assembly in September, a Nigerien representative who was initially scheduled to address the assembly did not have the opportunity.
According to a diplomatic source cited by AFP, the UN had received two conflicting requests to speak at the assembly: one from the military rulers and one from the deposed government. At the time, the military leaders criticized the "perfidious actions" of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, accusing him of obstructing their participation in the General Assembly. In response, Stéphane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN chief, clarified that, "In the event of competing credentials from a member state, the UN chief refers the matter to the body's Credentials Committee for deliberation," emphasizing that the Secretary-General does not make such decisions. The nine-member committee reports to the Assembly on the credentials of representatives. It has previously postponed decisions concerning countries such as Burma and Afghanistan, with the former governments still represented at the UN.
Bakary Yaou Sangare, who was Niger's ambassador to the UN before the coup and now serves as the foreign minister under the new leadership, was designated as the assembly's representative by the military regime. However, a diplomatic source reported that the overthrown government had also submitted an application to represent Niamey. Due to the competing credentials, the matter was deferred, and no representative from Niger was included in the list of speakers. As a result, Sangare did not address the General Assembly.
In a separate development, neighboring Burkina Faso, whose ruling junta also seized power in a coup, expelled the UN's coordinator in the country, while Mali terminated a decade-long UN peacekeeping mission. These actions come as all three nations grapple with a growing Islamist insurgency, leading to military coups by officers who pledged to enhance security. These coups have raised allegations of undue French influence, with a shift toward Russia as a strategic partner. France has consistently denied exerting undue influence.
Furthermore, on Tuesday, Niger's military regime announced that it had facilitated the departure of the first convoy of French soldiers from their base in the western town of Ouallam, headed towards Chad. Chad's capital, N'Djamena, is located 1,600 kilometers (1,000 miles) from Niamey and serves as the base for French forces in the Sahel command. Approximately 1,000 French troops were stationed in Niamey, with an additional 400 deployed at two forward bases in the northwest, near Mali and Burkina Faso, regions characterized by insurgent activity.
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