All soldiers stationed in the country are expected to return to France by the end of the year, Paris says
Paris will begin the withdrawal of troops from Niger this week, the French Ministry of the Armed Forces announced on Thursday, following a deterioration in relations caused by the recent coup in the African nation.
“Coordination with the Nigerien army is essential to the success of this maneuver. All arrangements have been made to ensure that movements take place in good order and safety,” the ministry said in a statement posted on X (formerly Twitter).
The move comes after France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, was expelled from the West African country by its new military rulers.
Nigerien President Mohamed Bazoum was ousted by the country’s military on July 26. In August, the coup leaders demanded that the French envoy leave and revoked his diplomatic immunity when Paris refused.
Prior to that, the new Nigerien rulers had suspended a raft of military cooperation agreements with France and asked that troops withdraw from the country in response to widespread dissatisfaction with the decade-long anti-insurgency mission in the Sahel region.
French President Emmanuel Macron had insisted that the new military government lacked legitimacy and called Itte’s expulsion a “provocation.”
Last month, however, Macron announced that France would terminate its military cooperation with the new Nigerien authorities as the envoy returns to Paris. French troops will leave Niamey “by the end of the year,” he added.
On Thursday, French army headquarters cited a “repatriation” order from the president as the reason for its decision to begin the withdrawal of soldiers from the uranium-rich African country.
“The disengagement of soldiers and military assets stationed in Niger begins this week. This maneuver should allow the return of all soldiers to France before the end of the year,” the army stated.
France has around 1,500 soldiers stationed in Niger. It also had military presences in Mali and Burkina Faso but halted those operations following coups in those countries, which are also former colonies. The French military base in Niger is one of the largest in the Sahel region, and once the withdrawal is complete, a contingent of around 1,000 troops in Chad will be all that remains of the French military presence in the region.
October 05, 2023 at 07:57PM