French president withdraws ambassador, troops from Niger following coup

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French President Emmanuel Macron has declared the withdrawal of his country’s ambassador and troops from Niger, following the coup that ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum in July 2023.

This decision by France comes after enduring weeks of mounting pressure from both the military junta and widespread public demonstrations.

Speaking in a televised interview on Sunday, September 24, President Macron emphasized that France’s military cooperation with Niger had come to an end, and the approximately 1,500 French troops stationed in the country would gradually withdraw in the “months and weeks to come,” with a complete pullout expected “by the end of the year.”

“France has decided to withdraw its ambassador.

In the next hours, our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France,” President Macron announced, addressing the nation.

This decision by France comes after enduring weeks of mounting pressure from both the military junta and widespread public demonstrations.

Thousands of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Niamey in recent weeks, including outside a military base where French soldiers were stationed.

The military junta in Niger, which had persistently called for France’s departure after President Macron refused to acknowledge the July 26 coup, expressed their approval of the French President’s announcement.

In a statement broadcast on national television, they declared, “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.”

This development coincides with France’s troops being asked to leave its former colonies, Mali and Burkina Faso, further adding to the geopolitical shift in the Sahel region.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, Nicolas Haque, reporting from Dakar, Senegal, remarked, “This is unquestionably a minor triumph for the transitional government and possibly a source of discomfort for the French, who are now being requested by the authorities in three Sahel countries to vacate.

“The French ambassador in Niger had been effectively confined within the embassy due to the Nigerien security forces, unable to enter or exit and subsisting on embassy food rations.”

President Macron disclosed that he had informed the ousted President Bazoum on Sunday about the decision to recall the French ambassador and diplomats.

Macron reiterated France’s stance that Bazoum remained the “sole legitimate authority” in the country and emphasized that the coup against him had been driven by a mix of courageous reforms and ethnic vendettas, along with political cowardice.