Book by French ex-envoy to Niger reportedly blocked by governmentWed, 24 Jan 2024 19:34:37 GMT

The planned launch of a book by France’s former ambassador to Niger has been delayed, its publishers told AFP Wednesday, after a report claimed the foreign ministry had intervened to stop its publication because of allegedly sensitive content.The book by Sylvain Itte, French envoy in Niger during last year’s acute crisis between Paris and Niamey, was supposed to hit the shelves on March 13.”Everything was planned and almost ready” and “we’re not quite sure what happened,” a spokesman for the Editions du Rocher publishing house said.”I imagine some passages were not to the ministry’s liking,” he added.Le Canard Enchaine investigative weekly reported in Wednesday’s edition that the government had asked for the book’s release to be stopped.A diplomatic source late Wednesday told AFP that books by France’s diplomats had to follow “precise ethical rules”.The source described the vetting process as “completely standard”.Itte found himself in the middle of a standoff between President Emmanuel Macron’s government and the leaders of a coup that forced president Mohamed Bazoum out of power in Niger on July 26 last year.The African country’s new masters demanded the withdrawal of 1,500 French troops stationed there and gave the ambassador 48 hours to leave.France, Niger’s former colonial masters, rejected both demands, with Macron claiming that Itte had been “taken hostage” by the perpetrators of the coup.But after two months, Macron announced the pullback of French troops and told the ambassador to leave.Le Canard Enchaine said the foreign ministry sent a letter to Itte in mid-January saying that his book “appears to present more risks than advantages”.The letter said that the book contained “several pieces of information concerning France’s crisis management system”, as well as exchanges between the ambassador and the French and Nigerien authorities.Reprinted by the weekly and signed by the ministry’s secretary-general, the letter concluded: “I do not see how I can authorise its publication”.Les Editions du Rocher said Itte’s book — titled “At the heart of French diplomacy in Africa” — was about more than just last year’s crisis.Rather, the spokesman said, it is a “geopolitical book about a country and a region in upheaval”.