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Niger junta expels UN Coordinator, orders diplomat to leave within 72 hours

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Louise Aubin

Niger military junta has demanded that the United Nations (UN) Coordinator should leave the West African country within 72 hours, accusing the UN of excluding Niger from its General Assembly last month.

The country’s post-coup military rulers who seized power in July did not have a representative at the meeting of world leaders in New York.

This was made by the country’s foreign ministry on Tuesday, October 10, 2023, where it stated that the Niger government had ordered Louise Aubin, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator, to take all necessary measures to leave Niamey within 72 hours.

The ministry accused the UN of using “underhanded manoeuvres” instigated by France to prevent its full participation in the UN General Assembly and in subsequent meetings of UN agencies that were held in Vienna and Riyadh.

It pointed to “obstacles” which it said were presented by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to thwart the complete participation of Niger at last month’s UN General Assembly.

The military regime has already criticized “the perfidious actions” of the UN chief, saying that they were “likely to undermine any effort to end the crisis in our country”.

Bakary Yaou Sangare, who before the coup was Niger’s ambassador to the UN and is now its foreign minister, was the new leaders’ chosen representative for the gathering.

But, according to a diplomatic source, there was also an application by the overthrown government to represent Niamey.

Because of the competing credentials, the matter was deferred and no representative from Niger was added to the speakers’ list.

The junta is following a pattern seen in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, which also grew hostile to the United Nations and former colonial ruler France after their militaries seized power.

Burkina Faso had expelled its UN resident coordinator last year, with Mali also terminating a UN peacekeeping mission that had been there for a decade.

All 3 countries are struggling with an Islamist insurgency that has spiralled in recent years, prompting power grabs by army officers who promised to improve security.

The coups have been accompanied by accusations that France exerts too much influence in its former colonies and a shift toward Russia as a strategic partner instead. France has denied exercising undue influence.

Recall that in August 2023, Niger’s junta ordered police to expel France’s ambassador, a move marking a further downturn in relations, and one that authorities in Paris said the army officers who seized power in Niamey had no authority to make.

The coup’s leaders were following the strategy of juntas in neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso in distancing themselves from the region’s former colonial power amid a wave of anti-French sentiment.

Meanwhile, the decision to expel the UN official comes as France is withdrawing its 1,400-strong contingent in Niger after being ordered out by the coup leaders.

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