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3 Jan, 2024 03:39

France shuts down embassy in Niger

Paris has promised to maintain contacts with NGOs in the country, after withdrawing troops and diplomats
France shuts down embassy in Niger

The French government announced on Tuesday that it has closed its embassy in Niger “until further notice,” complaining about “serious obstacles” preventing it from carrying out its diplomatic duties in the former colony.

A group of Nigerien army officers ousted President Mohamed Bazoum at the end of July, accusing him of failure in the war against Islamist terrorists in the Sahel. Within weeks, the new government in Niamey declared the French ambassador persona non grata and demanded the withdrawal of French troops. Ambassador Sylvain Itte initially refused to leave, arguing that the military government was not legitimate, but eventually ended up departing at the end of September.

“The embassy will continue its activities from Paris,” the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday. “In particular, it will maintain a link with the French nationals present on site, and with the NGOs working in the humanitarian sector, which we continue to finance, for the direct benefit of the most vulnerable populations.”

Niger’s new rulers have taken several other actions to cut ties with Paris since taking power. In late December they suspended all cooperation with the Paris-based International Organization of Francophone Nations (OIF), claiming it was merely a French political tool. They also encouraged nations on the continent to “decolonize their minds” and promote Pan-African values. Niger also canceled an anti-migration pact with the EU.

After France was forced to withdraw some 1,500 troops from the former colony in December, Niger's new leadership announced plans to reassess military agreements, signed by previous governments with other Western powers.

Paris suffered a number of setbacks in several other former West African colonies which deposed their Western-backed leaders in recent years. It was forced to withdraw troops from Mali following tensions with the military government in 2020. Last year, Paris also pulled out of Burkina Faso after the country’s military rulers ordered them to leave.

In September, Niger, Mali and Burkina Faso signed a charter to form the Alliance of Sahel States (AES) aiming to fight external and internal security threats together. In December they endorsed plans to create a federation uniting the three West African nations.