The Government of France has finally bowed to pressures to pull out its troops from the junta-led Niger Republic.
French President Emmanuel Macron made the announcement on Sunday that 1,500 troops would leave the country by the end of the year, while claiming it won’t “be held hostage by the putschists”.
The military junta, which ousted President Mohamed Bazoum in July, had demanded that President Macron withdraw its troops from the West African country.
Bazoum was overthrown on July 26 and held at the presidential palace along with his family in a coup that was denounced by France and the majority of Niger’s neighbours until their release.
The presence of the troops in Niger has been part of France’s effort to maintain its influence through counter-insurgency operations in the region.
Although President Macron has refused to recognise the military leaders as Niger’s legitimate government, he said the French capital will work with the junta on the French troops withdrawal.
The French Ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itte, would also return to France in a few hours, according to Macron.
The ambassador had defied the request of the junta to leave after he had refused to meet with the country’s new leaders and had done so because doing so was “contrary to the interests of Niger”, according to the Nigerian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Macron made a U-turn on his August statement that the French ambassador would remain there despite efforts from the coup leaders to do otherwise.
“As we speak, we have an ambassador and diplomatic staff who are literally being held hostage in the French embassy,” he said.
“They are preventing food deliveries,” the French President said, apparently referring to Niger’s new military rulers. “He is eating military rations.”
The French government has continued to lose its grip on West and Central Africa following the series of coups in Mali, Burkina Faso, Gabon, and protests over its operations.