Two months after the military coup in Niger, France announced that it would withdraw its ambassador and armed forces from the West African country. Military cooperation will be ended, said President Emmanuel Macron in an interview on television channels TF1 and France 2. According to him, the soldiers should return by the end of the year.
At the end of July, the presidential guard in Niger deposed the head of state Mohamed Bazoum in a military coup. The new ruler is General Abdourahamane Tiani, who suspended the constitutional order. The former colonial power France does not recognize the new government - as do other Western and African states.
The very poor African country with around 26 million inhabitants was an important partner for France in its anti-terror fight in the Sahel region until the coup. Paris has around 2,500 soldiers deployed in Niger and neighboring Chad. Germany also maintains a military air transport base in the capital Niamey, from which the Bundeswehr is currently withdrawing from Mali.
The French ambassador Sylvain Itté is also expected to return to France soon, Macron said. The putschists had already demanded the diplomat's departure at the end of August - but France ignored the ultimatum. Since then, according to Macron, the ambassador and his staff have been held virtually “hostage”.
Macron: Not responsible for the policies of these countries
Macron said in the interview that France was not in Niger to be hostage to the coup plotters. The putschists are friends of chaos. Attacks by Islamist jihadists, which are already costing lives every day in Mali, are now increasing. He is worried about this region. France has taken on its responsibility, sometimes alone, and he is proud of the French soldiers. But one is not responsible for the politics of these countries.
As French media consistently reported, the military government closed Nigerien airspace specifically to French aircraft on Saturday. Niger had previously completely lifted a lockdown imposed for several weeks after the coup on September 4th.
The former colonial power France had to withdraw its troops after the military coups in the neighboring countries of Mali and Burkina Faso. Niger was considered the West's last ally in the region.