President Emmanuel Macron Announces France’s Withdrawal of Ambassador and Termination of Military Cooperation with Niger After Coup.
President Emmanuel Macron has declared that France will recall its ambassador and discontinue all military collaboration with Niger in the aftermath of a coup.
Macron stated, “France has chosen to withdraw its ambassador. In the coming hours, our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France.”
Furthermore, he announced the conclusion of military cooperation, asserting that French troops would depart in the “months to come.”
The military junta, which assumed control of Niger in July, welcomed this decision, viewing it as a significant step towards Niger’s sovereignty.
Approximately 1,500 French soldiers are stationed in the landlocked West African nation.
This move by Paris follows several months of tension and protests against the French presence in Niger, with frequent demonstrations in the capital, Niamey.
The decision deals a substantial blow to France’s efforts against Islamist militants in the broader Sahel region and its influence in the area. Nevertheless, Macron emphasized that France would not be held hostage by the coup leaders.
Macron continues to recognize ousted Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, currently held captive by the coup leaders, as the sole legitimate authority in the country. He described Bazoum as a “hostage.”
Bazoum was targeted by the coup due to his implementation of courageous reforms and a settling of scores along ethnic lines, according to Macron.
Niger is among several former French colonies in West Africa where the military has recently seized power, following Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad. Gabon experienced the most recent coup in August.
Anti-French sentiment has grown in the region in recent years, with many local leaders accusing France of pursuing neocolonialist policies, a charge refuted by France.
Concerns have also arisen in the West regarding the increased role of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in the Sahel. The group is accused of human rights violations and has been aiding certain new military regimes.
The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), with France’s support, has threatened military intervention in Niger to reinstate President Bazoum. However, no action has been taken thus far.
Niger’s military leaders instructed French Ambassador Sylvain Itte to leave the country after overthrowing Bazoum on July 26. Nevertheless, a 48-hour ultimatum issued in August for his departure went unheeded, as the French government declined to comply or recognize the legitimacy of the military regime.
Macron’s announcement comes shortly after Niger’s coup leaders banned “French aircraft” from flying over the country. The regional air safety organization, ASECNA, confirmed that Niger’s airspace was open to all national and international commercial flights except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France, including those of Air France. The airspace would remain closed for “all military, operational, and other special flights” without prior authorization.
Air France indicated that it was not flying over Niger’s airspace in response to the ban.