President Emmanuel Macron of France says the French troops stationed in Niger will soon leave the West African country as relations between Paris and its former colony continue to nosedive.
The move is expected to deal a decisive blow to French influence in the region and counter-insurgency efforts in the Sahel region.
President Macron declared that 1,500 troops will leave by the end of the year and that France, Niger’s former colonial power, would not be “held hostage by the putchists.”
Mali and Burkina Faso have also pushed out the French troops since the coups in those countries
Macron’s announcement came after the junta issued a statement earlier Sunday that they were shutting Niger’s airspace to French planes, commercial and military, so that the new leadership could “retake total control of its skies and its territory.″ The move did not apply to other international aircraft.
The departure of the troops, which follows weeks of pressure by the junta and popular protests in Niger, is expected to deepen Western concerns about Russia’s growing influence in Africa.
Wagner’s Russian mercenary group is already deployed in Niger’s neighboring Mali.
Wagner also operates in the Central African Republic and Libya.
Western nations claim it is also present in Sudan, which the country rejects. Russian President Vladimir Putin has urged for Niger to reestablish constitutional order.
In recent years, French control over its former colonies in West Africa has decreased, just as public anger has increased with several protests spreading against Paris.
President Macron stated that he still considers Niger’s democratically elected President Mohammed Bazoum, who is presently being held captive by the coup leaders, to be the country’s rightful President and that he has notified him of his decision to leave Niger.