Emmanuel Macron has announced today that France will end its military presence in Niger amid pressure from the former French colony.
France has had 1,500 troops stationed in Niger since the democratically elected president was ousted in a coup in July. They will now be gradually pulled out, likely by the end of the year, Macron confirmed.
The decision to withdraw these men marks a humiliating blow for the French President and yet another impingement to France’s policy in Africa.
French troops also pulled out of neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso following coups there. Macron had stationed thousands of troops in the Sahel region at the request of African leaders to fight jihadist groups.
In recent weeks, tensions between France and Niger have soared after the new junta ordered the French ambassador to leave because the European country didn’t recognise the coup as legitimate. Macron recently said diplomats there were surviving on military rations and were holed up in the embassy.
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Ali Sekou Ramadan, an aide to deposed Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum, told reporters that Bazoum requested that Macron withdraw the French ambassador, Sylvain Itte, “in order to reduce tension.”
Speaking to French television today, Macron said he spoke to Bazoum and told the leader that “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France.”
He added: “And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities because they don’t want to fight against terrorism anymore.”
He told the broadcaster his men would be pulled out by the end of the year in coordination with the coup leaders to make sure the withdrawal is peaceful.
He said France’s military presence was in response to a request from Niger’s government at the time. That military cooperation between France and Niger had been suspended since the coup, however. The junta leaders claimed that Bazoum’s government wasn’t doing enough to protect the country from the insurgency.
The junta is now under sanctions by Western and regional African powers.
In August, it gave the French ambassador 48 hours to leave.
After the deadline expired without France recalling him, the coup leaders then revoked his diplomatic immunity.
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