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.
The withdrawal came a day after Niger’s military rulers on Monday said a first convoy of French troops would leave the West African nation after the leaders of a coup ordered them out.
French President Emmanuel Macron, who had sought to make a special ally of Niger, said in September that the troops would exit “by the end of the year”, complying with a demand by the coup leaders.
The withdrawal of some 1,400 French troops had been demanded by Niger’s ruling generals shortly after they seized power at the end of July.
Macron agreed to withdraw France’s ambassador and troops from Niger after demands from the junta and amid widespread anti-French sentiment in the former colony.
The French soldiers were deployed in Niger as part of a wider fight against jihadists across the Sahel region. But French troops have been living with uncertainty since the new regime began demanding their departure, with irregular supplies of food and repeated anti-French demonstrations outside the Niamey base.
The start of the French withdrawal came as Algeria decided to “postpone” mediation efforts to find a way out of Niger’s crisis.
Earlier this month, the Niger’s new leaders said that the timeframe of a transition back to civilian rule would be determined by an “inclusive national” dialogue.
Niger’s new strongman, General Abdourahamane Tiani, had said shortly after coming into power that a transition period would last a maximum of three years.