Harare — The head of the UN diplomatic mission in Niger is being forced to leave the country by the junta, which claims that Niger was left out of the UN General Assembly in September.
French military convoys started leaving bases in the Niger’s southwest, further undermining France’s standing in the conflict-torn Sahel region.
This comes after French President, Emmanuel Macron, declared the troops’ departure at the end of September, after the Niger generals demanded their evacuation.
Pick-up vehicles and armored personnel carriers filled with French soldiers crossed the outskirts of capital Niamey on Tuesday, October 10, according to a Reuters report, after the junta announced their departure.
In a declaration on state television, the military administration asked for the support of the Nigeriens for the troop withdrawals, saying that a portion of the 1,500 French soldiers would be traveling hundreds of kilometers by road to Chad.
Up until now, about 1,400 French soldiers and airmen were stationed in Niger to fight alongside Niger’s previous government against militants.
Of these, about 1,000 are stationed in Niamey, and 400 more are stationed at two forward bases in the west, at Tabarey-Barey and Ouallam, deep within the so-called “three borders” zone that shares borders with Burkina Faso and Mali.
The French soldiers were sent to Niger as part of a larger Sahel campaign against militants. However, since the new leadership started pressuring them to leave, French troops were facing sporadic food supplies and frequent anti-French protests outside their Niamey base.
In September, under intense pressure from the military officers who took over in July, France decided to remove its troops in Niger, marking the end of France’s military relationship with its former colony.
The military governments ruling neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso also drove out French forces, escalating Western worries about Russia’s growing influence in Africa.
The French evacuation also comes after Algeria chose to postpone mediation efforts to find a solution to Niger’s crisis.
Meanwhile, the United States officially referred to the military takeover of power on July 26 as a “coup d’état”. As a result, the country, which currently maintains about 1,100 troops and a sizeable drone base in Agadez, central Niger, announced the withdrawal of about U.S.$500 million in economic aid.