Following a coup, France will reportedly revoke its ambassador and halt all military cooperation with Niger, according to President Emmanuel Macron.
“France has made the decision to recall its ambassador. Our ambassador and a number of other ambassadors will return to France in the next hours, according to Mr. Macron.
Military cooperation was “over,” he continued, and French forces would depart in “the months to come.”
The military coup that took over Niger in July applauded the decision.
The junta declared in a statement that was cited by the AFP news agency that “this Sunday we celebrate a new step towards the sovereignty of Niger.”
There are approximately 1,500 French soldiers fighting against Islamist extremists in the landlocked nation of West Africa. More than a thousand US soldiers are also stationed in Niger, but they have not been requested to leave.
Following months of hostility and protests against the French presence in its former colony, including frequent rallies in the capital Niamey, Paris finally made a decision.
The action dealt a severe hit to Paris’ clout in the Sahel region as well as France’s operations against militants there. Speaking to France’s TF1 and France 2 television stations, Mr. Macron asserted, though, that France will “not be held hostage by the putschists.”
Former Niger President Mohamed Bazoum, who is being detained by the coup leaders, is still in Mr. Macron’s opinion the “sole legitimate authority” of the nation, and he has told him of this. He called the overthrown president a “hostage”.
He said that the coup d’etat was directed against him because of his brave reforms, the widespread ethnic score-settling, and the political cowardice that was there.
Following Burkina Faso, Guinea, Mali, and Chad, Niger is another former French colony in West and Central Africa where the military has lately taken power. In August, there was a coup in Gabon.
In recent years, there has been a rise in anti-French sentiment in the area, with many local politicians accusing Paris of implementing neocolonialist tactics, which France vigorously refutes.
Concerns have also been raised in the West over Russia’s Wagner mercenary group’s expanding influence in the Sahel. It is accused of violating human rights and has supported some recent military regimes.
In order to restore Mr. Bazoum, the regional Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), with France’s backing, has threatened military intervention in Niger. But it has not yet taken any action.
After toppling Mr. Bazoum on July 26, Niger’s military commanders informed the French ambassador Sylvain Itte that he must leave the nation.
Although he was given a 48-hour deadline to quit in August, the French government refused to honor it or recognize the military dictatorship as legal, thus he remained in position.
Hours after the leaders of the coup in Niger forbade “French aircraft” from flying over the nation, Mr. Macron made his announcement.
Niger’s airspace was described as being “open to all national and international commercial flights except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France including those of the airline Air France” by the regional air safety organization ASECNA.
According to the notice, “all military, operational, and other special flights” would be prohibited from using the airspace unless they had prior authorization.
Air France just stated to AFP that it was “not flying over Niger airspace”.
For security considerations, the US moved part of its troops from Niamey to Agadez earlier this month. Niger is home to the largest US drone facility in the area, which has served as the hub for Sahelian anti-jihadist operations. Additionally, it trains soldiers from Niger.
Although the US and the junta were able to agree for some flights to resume, it is unclear when full counterterrorism and training activities will start up again.