French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the withdrawal of the French ambassador and troops from Niger following the coup that removed democratically-elected President Mohamed Bazoum from power in July. Macron made this announcement during a televised interview, stating that the French ambassador and several diplomats would return to France in the coming hours.
Pressure had been mounting on France to exit Niger, with both the military and popular demonstrations calling for their departure. Protests had erupted in the capital, Niamey, including outside a military base housing French soldiers.
The new leaders of Niger, who had been demanding France’s exit after Macron refused to recognize the July 26 coup, welcomed this decision. In a statement broadcast on national television, they hailed it as a historic moment that demonstrated the sovereignty and determination of the Nigerien people.
This move by France in Niger is occurring amid similar requests in its former colonies Mali and Burkina Faso. It marks a significant development, as the French ambassador had effectively been held hostage within the embassy, with Niger’s security forces preventing anyone from entering or leaving.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had imposed sanctions in response to the July coup and warned of potential military intervention if diplomatic efforts to restore Bazoum to power failed. However, ECOWAS had scaled back its stance as regional countries lent support to the new military rulers.
The three Sahel countries — Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso, which have all experienced coups in recent years—formed a mutual defense pact in September to counter potential threats of armed rebellion or external aggression.
Macron reiterated France’s position that Bazoum was the legitimate authority and had been targeted by the coup due to his courageous reforms and political tensions. He also noted that France’s military presence in Niger had been at the request of the Nigerien government.
Niger’s military rulers had severed military cooperation with France after the coup, claiming that Bazoum’s government had not adequately addressed the armed rebellion in the country’s west, a part of the volatile Sahel region. Over the past decade, this region has witnessed escalating violence by armed groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and ISIS.
In another development, the military government accused United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of hindering Niger’s full participation in the UN’s annual meeting of world leaders to appease France and its allies.
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