FRANCE’S ambassador to Niger left the capital Niamey, weeks after the post-coup military leaders in the West African country demanded his expulsion.
‘The ambassador and six colleagues left Niamey around 4:00 am (0300 GMT),’ a diplomatic source from the French embassy said.
A source in the Niger interior ministry confirmed the departure and said the plane was headed towards Chad.
On Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that Paris would withdraw its ambassador Sylvain Itte from Niger, followed by the French military contingent in the coming months — both demands of the post-coup regime in Niamey.
Niger’s leaders, who overthrew elected president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26, welcomed the announcement by France but said they were waiting for it to be followed up by official actions.
The regime had been demanding Itte’s departure since the end of August.
They took away his diplomatic immunity and visa, but Paris had refused until now to withdraw him.
France has not recognised the authority of the military leaders and is still demanding Bazoum’s restoration.
Niger’s coup leaders are demanding a ‘negotiated framework’ for the former colonial ruler to withdraw its troops, which Paris says will be completed by the end of the year.
The new military regime said in a statement read out on national TV late on Monday that the timeframe for the pullout ‘must be set out in a negotiated framework and by mutual agreement.’
France has about 1,500 soldiers in its former West African colony as part of an anti-ınsurgeny deployment in the Sahel.
The coup against Bazoum was the third such putsch in the region in as many years, following similar actions in Mali and Burkina Faso in 2021 and 2022.
They too forced the pullouts of French troops.