French president, Emmanuel Macron, has announced on Sunday its decision to withdraw its military presence from Niger and recall its ambassador following the ousting of the democratically elected president, Mohamed Bazoum, in a coup.
The announcement, while anticipated, deals a substantial setback to France’s African policy. In recent years, French forces withdrew from Mali and Burkina Faso due to coups in those countries.
African leaders had previously requested France to deploy thousands of troops to combat jihadist organizations in the region.
Macron has maintained some 1,500 troops in Niger since the July coup and had repeatedly refused an order by the new junta for its ambassador to leave, saying that France didn’t recognize the coup leaders as legitimate.
However, tensions between France and Niger, a former French colony, have become increasingly evident in recent weeks.
President Macron recently expressed concern, revealing that diplomats were relying on military rations as they sought refuge in the embassy.
While featuring in an interview with France-2 television, Macron said that he spoke Sunday to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, and told him that
- “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours, our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France.
- And we will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities.”
He noted that France’s military presence in Niger was in response to a request from Niger’s government at the time.
Following the coup, the military collaboration between France and Niger had been severely halted. The leaders of the junta contended that Bazoum’s administration had not taken sufficient measures to safeguard the nation from insurgent threats.
Previous Warning from the Junta
In August, the junta issued a 48-hour ultimatum to French Ambassador, Sylvain Itte, demanding his departure. When France failed to recall him after the deadline passed, the coup leaders stripped him of his diplomatic immunity.
The communique sent by Niger’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Itte
- “no longer enjoys the privileges and immunities attached to his status as a member of the embassy’s diplomatic staff.
- The police have been instructed to carry out his expulsion.
The document also said the diplomatic cards and visas of the ambassador’s families have been cancelled, adding that
Since ousting Niger’s democratically elected Bazoum, the junta has leveraged anti-French sentiment among the population to shore up its support.
However, France President, Emmanuel Macron, insisted that France would not change its position in condemning the coup and offering support to Bazoum, stressing he had been democratically elected and was being “courageous” by refusing to resign.
Macron then said the ambassador would stay in the country despite the junta’s pressure.
What You Should Know
Niger’s ousted president Mohamed Bazoum was toppled by a military junta on July 26. The coup was carried out by the presidential guard of the country.
Since the emergence of military rule two months ago, there has been a mountain of pressure from the junta to exit France, a former colonial master, from their territory.
According to the Junta, the French government represents the interest of the ousted Niger president, Bazoum, and the activities of the French in the country should no longer be encouraged.
Also, the imprisoned leader faces possible high treason charges over his exchanges with foreign heads of state and international organisations, coup leaders have said.