The President of France Emmanuel Macron said that France will withdraw its ambassador from Niger followed by the French military contingent in the coming months, in the aftermath of the coup in the West African country that ousted the pro-Paris president.
Macron’s announcement appeared to end two months of defiance in which Paris’s ambassador had been kept in Niamey despite coup leaders ordering him to leave.
While appearing on French television, he said that France’s ambassador and several diplomats would return home.
“France has decided to withdraw its ambassador. In the next few hours, our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” Macron said.
However, according to the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar website, Niger’s military rulers banned French aircraft from flying over the country’s airspace. It is not yet clear if this would affect the ambassador being flown out.
Macron added that the military cooperation between the two countries and French troops would withdraw in the months and weeks to come with a full pullout by the end of the year, adding that they would consult the putschists because they want the withdrawal to be done in a peaceful way.
Niger’s military rulers immediately responded in a statement read on national television.
“This Sunday, we celebrate a new step towards the sovereignty of Niger. This is a historic moment, which speaks to the determination and will of the Nigerien people,” the statement read.
France keeps about 1,500 soldiers in Niger as part of an anti-jihadist deployment in the Sahel region. Macron said that the new authorities no longer want to fight against terrorism.
Niger’s military leaders told the French ambassador, Sylvain Itté, that he had to leave the country after they overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) threatened military action to restore Bazoum; however, its threats, which were strongly supported by France, have not been translated into action.
Macron has often talked about making a historic change to France’s post-colonial imprint in Africa. However, analysts say that Paris is losing influence across the continent, especially with the growing influence of China, Turkey, and Russia.
The coup against Bazoum was among the ones in the West African region following similar actions in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022 that also forced the withdrawal of French troops.
The military rulers seized power in a coup d’etat by overthrowing President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, 2023.