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France's Military and Diplomatic Departure from Niger: A Significant Blow to Africa's Defense Strategy

Published September 26, 2023
9 months ago

A significant turn of events unfolded as French President, Emmanuel Macron, on Sunday declared an end to France's military presence in Niger, while also declaring the imminent recall of its ambassador. This decision comes as the result of the recent forceful ousting of Niger's democratically-elected President.

Considered a notably painful blow to France’s strategic policy in Africa, this news comes in the wake of French troop withdrawals from bordering countries, Mali and Burkina Faso, as these nations too fell to military coups. Requested by African leaders, France had positioned thousands of soldiers in the region to combat jihadist groups, totalling around 1,500 in Niger post-coup in July.

This decision by France, which once colonised Niger, has heightened mounting tensions between the two nations. Macron recently reported diplomats in Niger were resorting to military provisions for survival, lodged within the embassy.

In an interview with France-2 Television, Macron articulated his recent conversation with displaced President Mohamed Bazoum, announcing, “France has decided to bring back its ambassador, and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France." He also indicated an end to France’s military cooperation with the Niger authorities and predicted the troops would gradually be withdrawn, likely by the end of the year.

Furthermore, Macron indicated that France's military presence was initiated in response to a plea from the Nigerien government at that time. Post-coup, the military cooperation has been suspended, as the new junta asserted that Bazoum's administration was inadequately safeguarding the nation against insurgent threats.

After the junta gave French Ambassador Sylvain Itte a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Niger, which France refuted, his diplomatic immunity was revoked by the coup leaders. Now the junta faces sanctions from Western nations and African regional powers. Additionally, accusations have arisen from Niger's military government against U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for hampering their full involvement in the U.N.'s annual world leaders meeting, allegedly to placate France and its allies.

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