NIGERIA AND FRANCE HAVE reportedly been speaking about the possibility of France withdrawing its troops.

World News

Paris: According to reports in French media, France is in talks with the military of Niger about the possibility of removing its troops from the West African nation because of the worsening of relations as a result of a coup in July.

The information was corroborated to Al Jazeera by Nicolas Normand, a former French ambassador to Mali and Senegal, who said that, according to his sources, talks between the French and Niger forces to “partially” withdraw soldiers were ongoing.

According to Normand’s source, the discussions between the two forces should not be interpreted as an endorsement of the coup leaders rather than a “technical” debate.

As a result of France’s unwillingness to recognise the July 26 coup that overthrew President Mohamed Bazoum, a French ally, France has been at conflict with Niger’s new military government. Bazoum, who is still detained, continues to have the support of French President Emmanuel Macron.

For days, thousands of people demonstrated in Niamey, the nation’s capital, in favour of the new government’s hard-line stance towards the former colonial power and the coup leaders’ demand that the French ambassador and soldiers withdraw from Niger.

Around 1,500 French troops are present in Niger as part of a bigger operation by France against armed militants in the Sahel. Niger became a key centre for France after coups forced the departure of French military from neighbouring Mali and Burkina Faso, according to Al Jazeera.

According to Al Jazeera, a demonstration was held in front of the French military installation in Niamey, with organisers warning that no one should “let their guards down” until all French troops have left the nation.

On August 3, the coup leaders repudiated several agreements with France on military cooperation, one of which had a notice period of one month that ended on Sunday.

Prime Minister Ali Mahamane Lamine Zeine of Niger, who was nominated by the military, stated on Monday that “contacts” on a “very swift” pullout of French troops were ongoing.

Zeine did, however, express his desire to “maintain cooperation, if possible, with a country with which we have shared many things.”

A nearby airfield where the majority of the French military is stationed has recently come under attack from tens of thousands of protesters who want them to leave.

The coup has been viewed as a further serious blow to French dominance in the region, following military takeovers in Burkina Faso in 2022 and Mali in 2020.

President Mohamed Bazoum and his government are the only authorities in Niger that we acknowledge, together with the rest of the world, said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna in a statement to the Le Monde newspaper on Sunday.

The French forces were in Niger at the invitation of the Bazoum-led authorities to participate in “anti-terror” operations, she emphasised.

The fact that we no longer conduct joint operations with the Niger armed forces means that this mission can no longer be guaranteed, she said.

Colonna claimed that the dominant force in the area was the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), not France. According to Al Jazeera, she also accepted Macron’s claims that “Francafrique,” in which Paris exercised neo-colonial supremacy in the region, was no longer relevant.

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