Nigerien activists made their presence known outside a French military base in Niamey as they celebrated the French Ambassador to the West African country’s departure, reports Africa News, October 1.
French diplomat, Sylvain Itte left Niger recently and returned to Paris. Niger’s military leaders have previously demanded that he departs the country.
Following Itte’s return to France, he met with French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna. The Foreign Minister “thanked him and his teams for his work in the service of our country under difficult conditions”.
Regarding Itte’s exit, Niger’s anti-French activists have claimed that they have won the battle but not the war.
1,500 French troops remain on Nigerien soil, primarily to help the country and the Sahel region more generally to fight against Islamist insurgencies with links to prominent terrorist organistaions like ISIS and Al-Qaeda.
The continuing presence of French forces sparked large demonstrations in the Nigerien capital in mid-September as anti-Western sentiment rises.
On the recent departure of the French Ambassador, Protestor, Mohamed Abdou-Latif, told the press that, “this victory is not, if you like, a total victory for this revolution, it’s only the beginning. We call on the entire population of Niger to mobilise as one until the last French soldier leaves Niger,”.
Another demonstrator, Ibrahim Boubacar echoed Abdou-Lafif’s comments, “we’re overjoyed. But just because the ambassador has gone doesn’t mean that we’re going to stay at home and say ‘It’s over, we’ve won’. No, we are going to continue the fight,”.
Despite the fury over what some have claimed is an “ongoing occupation” by the French, Niger’s new rulers are adamant that they would establish relations with Paris.
French President, Emmanuel Macron has condradicted this, saying that he remains supportive of Mohamed Bazoum, the former Nigerien President ousted by a coup d’etat on July 26.
Macron, who in September claimed to speak to the Nigerien President on a daily basis following his removal from power, said that, “I speak every day to President Bazoum. We (France) support him. We do not recognise those who carried out the putsch. The decisions we will take, whatever they may be, will be based upon exchanges with Bazoum,”.