Ambassador leaves the country
Macron announces troop withdrawal from Niger
September 24, 2023, 10:17 p.m
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After weeks of tension with the new rulers in Niger, France announced that it would withdraw its troops from the country by the end of the year. The French ambassador is also due to return to Paris.
France’s president wants to withdraw French armed forces from Niger. Military cooperation with the African country will end and the French soldiers stationed there should return by the end of the year, Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with television channels TF1 and France 2.
At the end of July, the presidential guard in Niger deposed the head of state Mohamed Bazoum in a military coup. The West African country with its 25 million inhabitants has recently been an important partner for France in its fight against terrorism in the Sahel zone. Paris has around 2,500 soldiers deployed in Niger and neighboring Chad. The new ruler in Niger is the commander of the elite unit, General Abdourahamane Tiani, who suspended the constitutional order.
The French ambassador Sylvain Itté should also return to France, Macron said. At the end of August, the coup plotters had already demanded the diplomat’s departure – an ultimatum that France did not recognize on the grounds that his accreditation came from the deposed elected Nigerien representatives. In mid-September, Macron denounced that the ambassador and his staff were being held “hostage”. The former colonial power does not recognize the new government – as do other Western and African states.
It is still unclear to what extent France’s decision was coordinated with other European countries or what impact it will have on their troops in Niger and neighboring countries. Numerous soldiers from EU countries are stationed in Niger. Germany still maintains a military air transport base in the capital Niamey, from which the Bundeswehr is currently withdrawing from Mali.
Airspace closed to French planes
The military government in Niger has meanwhile closed the country’s airspace to French aircraft. Niger’s airspace is open to all domestic and international commercial flights “except for French aircraft or aircraft chartered by France, including those of the airline Air France,” said a statement dated Saturday evening and posted on the website of the Aviation Safety Authority for Africa and Madagascar ( Asecna) was published. The airspace will remain closed to all military and special flights unless special permission is granted from the authorities.
When asked by the AFP news agency, Air France said it does not use Niger’s airspace. The most important airline for air traffic between Europe and Africa has suspended all flights to Niamey since August 7th.
Niger’s airspace reopened on September 4th after a month-long closure. At the beginning of August, the country’s military leadership closed the airspace due to the “risk of intervention.” The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) had threatened military intervention to reinstate President Mohamed Bazoum, who was overthrown in a coup on July 26.