The standoff between French authorities and the Nigerien junta has persisted for two months, but France is now compelled to withdraw from the country. Over time, Paris’ strategy had become untenable. The 1,500 French soldiers currently stationed in Niger will depart by the end of the year. This announcement came from Emmanuel Macron on Sunday evening, along with the confirmation of the French ambassador’s departure.
The ambassador’s departure is expected to occur in the coming days, rather than in the next few hours, as Emmanuel Macron announced yesterday. This departure remains the subject of ongoing negotiations between Paris and the junta. Nevertheless, it had become inevitable as the pressure on Sylvain Itté had intensified in recent days, with the Nigerien military demanding his expulsion.
Deprived of his diplomatic immunity since August 29, the ambassador had been living in seclusion within the French residence, which had been under near-blockade for nearly a month. No food items were allowed in, and vehicles were subject to systematic searches. On September 5, ambassadors from the European Union and Spain were denied entry. These intimidation measures continued to escalate.
The situation had “become very difficult”
Recently, internet access has been cut off. More worrisome, five pickup trucks equipped with machine guns had parked outside the embassy one night for several minutes. As a result, the situation “had become very difficult and deteriorated significantly” from a security perspective, as stated by sources close to the French president.
Emmanuel Macron, therefore, had to face reality. It had become impossible for Sylvain Itté to remain in Niamey. The French president informed Mohamed Bazoum of this departure yesterday afternoon, assuring that it is “not an abandonment.” The Élysée Palace emphasized, “We will continue to work for his release.” France does not intend to deviate from its stance at this time, even though it emerges weakened from this episode. Paris has lost its battle with the junta. The ambassador is compelled to leave, along with the 1,500 French soldiers. This represents a significant blow to France’s military strategy in the Sahel region.