IN SHORT: After removing president Mohamed Bazoum, the Niger military junta asked the French ambassador to leave the country. A video is circulating with a claim that it shows the ambassador being forced out of the French embassy in Niger. But the claim is false.
A video circulating on social media, particularly on Facebook and WhatsApp, shows a crowd of people repeatedly shouting “voleur”, while soldiers escort a man out of a building. The people in the crowd appear to be black Africans, while the man escorted out is white.
“Voleur” is the French word for “thief”.
The video is circulating with a claim that it shows the French ambassador to Niger being forced out of the French embassy in the West African country.
“After ignoring several notices given to him to leave Niamy, Niger Republic, the French Ambassador as seen below was finally pulled out of the French Embassy in Niamy, amist jests from Nigeriens. Freedom is finally coming to Africa!” reads a Facebook post, dated 14 September 2023.
The military took over power in Niger in a coup in June 2023 and removed president Mohamed Bazoum.
The junta, or military government, made various changes, including asking the French ambassador Sylvain Itté and French troops to leave Niger. France refused to comply, saying it did not recognise the authority of the military leaders.
But does this video show Nigerien soldiers forcing Itté out of the French embassy in Niger?
Incident happened at a ministry building in Gabon
Even though the people in the video speak French, the official language of Niger, a few clues indicate the video was not taken in Niger.
First, the way the people in the video are dressed is inconsistent with what is usual in Niger, a country that is 98% Muslim. No one in the crowd is dressed like a typical Muslim in the Sahel region of Africa. For example, none of the women wear veils, typically worn by Muslim women in the country. The manner in which men and women mingle in the video is also very unlikely in a Muslim country like Niger.
Second, the man in the video who is identified as the French ambassador is not Itté. We compared photos of Itté with the man in the video and found they do not look alike.
Third, we found a Facebook post of the same video and a claim that the incident occurred in Gabon, in Central Africa, and that the white man is Prof Lee White. He was Gabon's minister of water and environment in charge of climate change and land-use planning.
White, a British-Gabonese conservationist, was appointed minister in 2019 by president Ali Bongo, who was ousted by the Gabonese military in a coup on 30 August 2023. Gabon is also a former French colony, with French as its official language.
The incident recorded in the video occurred after the coup. A report published on 13 September has the headline: “Lee White out as Gabon’s water and forest minister.”
Lastly, the building in the video does not look like the French embassy building in Naimey, Niger’s capital. We did a reverse image search with screenshots from the video and found that the building in the video is located in Libreville, the capital of Gabon. It houses the country’s ministry of water resources and forestry.
Itté held hostage in French embassy in Niger: Macron
On 15 September, French president Emmanuel Macron accused Nigerien military rulers of blocking food supplies to the French embassy.
Macron told reporters that Itté was still inside the embassy, living like a hostage and eating military rations.
The claim that he is the man in the viral video is false.
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