France begins withdrawing its troops from Niger

France begins withdrawing its troops from Niger

Paris, The Gulf Observer: France has begun withdrawing its troops from Niger after being ordered out of the West African nation by the leaders of the July coup that ousted the pro-Paris president, the military said Tuesday.

“The first troops have left,” the spokesman of the French chief of staff said, confirming an announcement Monday by Niger’s army, which said that the 1,400-strong French contingent would begin leaving Tuesday, under escort from Niger forces.

A French defenses source said a first group of soldiers that were considered priority for evacuation for health or humanitarian reasons had already flown out of Niger on Monday.

The pullout comes hot on the heels of the departure of France’s ambassador to Niamey who was also forced out by the leaders of the July coup that toppled President Mohamed Bazoum.

It is the fourth time in under two years that French troops have suffered the humiliation of being forced out of a former African colony, coming after Mali, the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso.

French President Emmanuel Macron had initially resisted demands by Niger’s coup leaders to withdraw his troops and ambassador to Niamey, arguing that only the ousted Bazoum had the authority to make such a request.

In late September however, he announced both the ambassador and the troops were coming home after months of anti-French protests.

Ambassador Sylvain Itte returned to Paris on September 27.