Paris, France – French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that France will terminate its military presence in Niger and withdraw its ambassador from the country following the overthrow of Niger’s democratically elected president in a coup.
This move represents a substantial setback for France’s African policy, as it comes on the heels of French troop withdrawals from neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso after similar coup events in recent years. France had deployed thousands of troops in the region at the request of African leaders to combat jihadist groups.
Since the July coup that ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, France had maintained approximately 1,500 troops in Niger, defying orders from the new junta to recall its ambassador, as they did not recognize the coup leaders as legitimate.
Tensions had been escalating between France and Niger, a former French colony, with reports of diplomats enduring challenging conditions, including relying on military rations while holed up in the embassy.
President Macron revealed in an interview with France-2 television that he had spoken with ousted President Bazoum on Sunday and informed him of France’s decision to recall its ambassador. He also announced the end of military cooperation with the Niger authorities. The gradual withdrawal of French troops is expected to take place by the end of the year.
It’s important to note that France’s military presence in Niger had initially been at the request of Niger’s government prior to the coup. However, military cooperation between the two nations had been suspended since the coup, with the junta leaders alleging that Bazoum’s government was inadequately addressing the insurgency.
In August, the junta had given French Ambassador Sylvain Itte 48 hours to leave Niger. When France did not comply, the coup leaders revoked his diplomatic immunity.
The junta now faces sanctions imposed by Western and regional African powers in response to the coup.
Meanwhile, in New York, the military government in Niger accused U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of obstructing the nation’s full participation at the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders, allegedly to appease France and its allies.