The last French hostage in the world has just been released. After 711 days in captivity, French journalist Olivier Dubois arrived at Niamey airport, the capital of Niger, around 3 p.m. (local and Paris time) on Monday March 20. “I feel tired but I’m fine”he said when he got off the plane, smiling and visibly moved, wearing an open white shirt over a black T-shirt and beige pants.
“It’s huge for me to be here, to be free, I didn’t expect it. I wanted to pay tribute to Niger for its know-how in this delicate mission and to pay tribute to France and to all those who have allowed me to be here today”, added the 48-year-old Frenchman, in front of several journalists.
For now, the conditions for the release of Olivier Dubois remain unclear. But according to several security and diplomatic sources, Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum – who is currently visiting Togo – has personally involved in his release “. Since his abduction, other channels of negotiation had also been opened, in particular through the Malian High Islamic Council (HCI), an association bringing together Muslim associations and leaders.
American humanitarian Jeffery Woodke, kidnapped in October 2016, was also released with Olivier Dubois on Monday March 20. “The hostages were recovered safe and sound by the Nigerien authorities before being handed over to the French and American authorities” said Hamadou Adamou Souley, Niger’s Interior Minister, at the airport on Monday. Sylvain Itté, the French ambassador to Niger, was also present, and thanked the Nigerien authorities for having “actively contributed to this happy ending”. Emmanuel Macron also praised Niamey in a tweet, highlighting his “great gratitude to Niger for this release”.
Regular contributor to Release, Africa Point et Young Africa Since his installation in Mali in 2015, Olivier Dubois had been kidnapped on April 8, 2021 in Gao, in the north-east of the country, when he had plans to interview Abdallah ag Albakaye, a local official of the Support Group for the Islam and Muslims (GSIM, affiliated with Al-Qaida).
proof of life
The journalist had gone to the fixed meeting point, in a street in Gao, in the company of his fixer, a Malian with whom he had been working on security issues for several years. He then got into a vehicle in which there were several men, before disappearing and no longer giving any sign of life to his relatives.
Almost a month later, on May 5, 2021, Olivier Dubois announced that he was captive of the GSIM in a video posted on social networks. In the process, the national anti-terrorist prosecutor’s office had opened an investigation for kidnapping in an organized gang and in connection with a terrorist enterprise.
In March 2022, proof of life of the journalist had reached his relatives. Olivier Dubois, visibly in good health, thanked them for their support and then asked the French government to “continue to do our best to work towards [sa] liberation”.
For those close to the Frenchman, this March 20, 2023 comes to put an end to almost two years of ordeal. “It’s upsetting. I have no words “, says Marc de Boni, a close friend of Olivier Dubois and spokesperson for the support committee set up after his abduction. “We were preparing communication actions for April 8, which would have marked the two years of his captivity. We are so happy to have to cancel everything “, he adds.
“The Africa World”
Every Saturday, find a week of news and debates, by the editorial staff of “Monde Afrique”
On its website, the newspaper Releasefor which Olivier Dubois provided correspondence in Mali, for his part said he was waiting “ looking forward to being able to celebrate his return with him”, before addressing his “more sincere thanks to all those who have worked tirelessly to [ses] sides during this long period”.