France has officially kicked off the withdrawal of its troops from Niger after being ordered out of the West African nation by the leaders of the July coup that overthrew the pro-Paris president, the military disclosed Tuesday.
“The first troops have left,” the mouthpiece of the French chief of staff said, confirming an announcement Monday by Niger’s army, which disclosed that the 1,400-strong French contingent would begin leaving Tuesday, under escort from Niger forces.
A French defense source noted that the first batch of soldiers 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.
This is the fourth time in under two years that French troops have suffered the humiliation of being kicked out of a former African colony, coming after Mali, the Central African Republic and Burkina Faso.
Initially, French President Emmanuel Macron had resisted demands by Niger’s coup leaders to pull out his troops and ambassador to Niamey, arguing that only the ousted Bazoum had the power to make such a request.
However, in late September he announced both the ambassador, and the troops were coming home after months of anti-French protests.
Ambassador Sylvain Itte went back to Paris on September 27.