France will remove its 1,500 troops from Niger by the end of the year following the country’s military coup earlier this year.
The African country’s democratically elected president was ousted in July, with the ensuing Western sanctions pushing food prices up by 60% and triggering 10-hour-long electricity cuts.
France had previously stationed thousands of troops in the Sahl region at the request of African leaders to fight jihadist groups.
It had maintained 1,500 of them in Niger since the coup and had repeatedly refused an order by the new junta for its ambassador to leave.
Tensions between France and Niger, a former French colony, have mounted in recent weeks, and President Macron previous described how diplomats were surviving on military rations as they holed up in the embassy.
In August, French ambassador Sylvain Ittee was given 48 hours to leave – when the deadline expired, coup leaders revoked his diplomatic immunity.
In an interview with France-2, Mr Macron said he spoke on Sunday to ousted President Mohamed Bazoum, and told him France has decided to bring back its ambassador, “and in the coming hours our ambassador and several diplomats will return to France.”
He added: “We will put an end to our military cooperation with the Niger authorities because they don’t want to fight against terrorism anymore.”
He said France’s military presence was in response to a request from Niger’s government at the time.
The junta leaders claimed Mr Bazoum’s government wasn’t doing enough to protect the country from the insurgency.
Troops will be gradually pulled out, in coordination with leaders of the junta “because we want it to take place peacefully”.
Mr Bazoum previously warned of “devastating consequences” for the entire world if he is not reinstated.
Referring to the Ukraine war, he said “the entire central Sahel region could fall to Russian influence via the Wagner Group”.
The end of France’s ‘gendarme’
In New York on Friday, the military government that seized power in Niger accused UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres of “obstructing” the West African nation’s full participation at the annual meeting of world leaders.
Experts say that after repeated military interventions in its former colonies in recent decades, the era of France as Africa’s “gendarme” may finally be over, as the continent’s priorities shift.
French troops were also pulled out of neighbouring Mali and Burkino Faso in recent years after coups took place there.
Rida Lyammouri, a senior fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, a Morocco-based think tank, said Niger will feel the loss of French support in its fight against violent extremist organizations.
He said: “France has been a reliable partner providing support to its operations and Niger simply doesn’t have an alternative to fill this void by the French, at least in short and mid term.”