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The Republic of Benin has asked the European Union’s envoy, Oliver Nette, to leave the country. A statement from the country’s presidency cited political interference as the main reason for the country’s action against Nette. Although, the country has categorically stated that they have nothing against the European Union (EU).

According to a statement by an anonymous government official to the press, “He has interfered too much in domestic affairs.” The official added that Nette “constantly calls on civil society to protest against the government.”

The country has the freedom to either continue or stop diplomatic relations with any country or foreign agency if they deem it fit. These rights are concisely provided for in an international treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. The treaty puts a legal structure for diplomatic relations between independent countries. It specifies the privileges of ambassadors, which will help them carry out official assignments without fear of oppression or harassment by the host country. 

The Benin Republic is simply dancing to the tune set by the Vienna Convention which had set boundaries for envoys and given host countries the right to expel any envoy that violates its policies and other regulations. Although diplomats may not be prosecuted by their host countries, article 9 of the Vienna convention says the host country can declare any member of foreign diplomatic staff as “persona non grata” and require them to be removed, usually within a short period of time.

Benin is not the only African country that has expelled an ambassador. Rwanda, Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Burundi took similar steps recently. These countries all accused the envoys of meddling in their national affairs. In Burundi’s case, the United Nation’s embassy was shut down.

The presence of an envoy in a country signifies a bilateral relationship. The economy of both parties mutually benefits from the relationship, and ambassadors from another nation are traditionally treated as a guest. They negotiate agreements with host countries on behalf of theirs.

The country may be right to expel the EU’s representative, however, possibilities that this action may bring about a decline in aid from the EU to the government are not to be swept under the carpet. This decision could also present the country as unfriendly to other member states of the European Union.

By Ishioma Eni.


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