France ends its presence in Niger

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French foreign Legion defile in Paris on the Champs Elysees.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that France would withdraw its military presence from Niger and recall its ambassador from the country. This decision follows the taking hostage of Niger’s democratically elected president in a coup on July 26.

France’s announcement marks a significant setback to France’s African policy, especially after French troops had previously withdrawn from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso due to coup-related events in recent years. France had stationed thousands of troops in the region upon the request of African leaders to combat jihadist groups.

Since the July coup, France has maintained around 1,500 troops in Niger and had consistently refused the junta’s order to remove its ambassador, citing the lack of recognition of the legitimacy of the coup leaders. Tensions had escalated between France and Niger, a former French colony, with Macron revealing that diplomats had been living under constrained conditions in the embassy.

Macron disclosed that he had spoken with ousted President Mohamed Bazoum and informed him of France’s decision to bring back its ambassador and that France would terminate its military cooperation with the Niger authorities, with a gradual withdrawal of troops expected by the end of the year. It should be noted that France’s military presence in Niger was initially in response to a request from Niger’s government.

Military cooperation between France and Niger had been suspended since the coup, as the junta leaders accused Bazoum’s government of inadequately addressing the insurgency. In August, the junta had given French Ambassador Sylvain Itté 48 hours to depart, and after France refusal to comply, the coup leaders revoked his diplomatic immunity. The junta is now subject to sanctions from Western and regional African powers.

Last week, the military government that took control in Niger accused U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of hindering Niger’s full participation in the U.N.’s annual meeting of world leaders to appease France and its allies.

According to experts, the era of France acting as Africa’s “gendarme” through repeated military interventions in its former colonies in recent decades may be coming to an end.

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