France Ends Military Presence in Niger Amid Political Unrest

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In a pivotal turn of events, French President Emmanuel Macron has announced a formal termination of France’s military presence in the African nation of Niger. This decision follows the undemocratic usurpation of the country’s elected president, marking a profound adjustment of France’s policy decisions towards Africa. The move echoes France’s previous actions, evacuating their forces from Mali and Burkina Faso upon similar instances of coup d’etats.

Hitherto, France was a staunch anti-terrorist force in the Sahel region, deploying thousands of troops at the appeal of local authorities for combatting jihadist factions. Ever since the Nigerien coup in July, France had been retaining approximately 1,500 soldiers in the country while neglecting the junta’s demand for their envoy’s removal.

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Rising tensions noticed in recent times between Niger, once a French colony, and France were intensifying, with Macron depicting the embassy inhabitants’ survival on military servings. The French president acknowledged his recent communication with the ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, instating that France had resolved to recall its ambassador, with several diplomats preparing to return to France. He further declared cessation of their military cooperation with Niger’s present authorities due to their unwillingness to combat terrorism.

Plans for a phased withdrawals of French troops coordinated with the junta leaders is expected to be completed by the year’s end, aiming for the transition to be peaceful. Observers have already noted that the military alliance between the countries was suspended post-coup. Western and regional African powers have also sanctioned the junta.

Following the ultimatum provided to the French Ambassador Sylvain Itte, his diplomatic immunity was revoked by the coup leaders upon France’s refusal to recall him. The military government presently in power in Niger has accused U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of meddling agencies that inhibit Niger’s full participation at the U.N.’s annual meet. This further suggests that France and its allies are being placated.

As the African continent’s priorities evolve, France’s traditional role as Africa’s “gendarme” is seemingly concluding after constant military interventions in its former colonies. According to Andrew Lebovich, a Clingendael Institute researcher, France’s shift of decision echoes the region’s raw reality and could possibly influence U.S. deployments in Niger. Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, noted that Niger will inevitably grapple with the gap left by France’s withdrawal in the fight against extremist organizations.

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