Operations for the withdrawal of French soldiers present in Niger should begin this Tuesday, under the escort of the Nigerien army, announced the military regime which came to power through a coup d'état, at a time when Algeria decides to "suspend " his mediation supposed to find a way out of the crisis.
“Operations for the departure of the first convoy under the escort of our defence and security forces will begin tomorrow, Tuesday, October 10,” the military regime said Monday evening in a press release read on national television, Télé Sahel.
The press release does not specify the destination of this convoy.
The withdrawal of some 1,400 French soldiers from the country was demanded by Nigerien generals quickly after they came to power at the end of July. And French President Emmanuel Macron announced their departure at the end of September.
“After meetings” and “exchanges between our authorities and the French side, a timetable for the withdrawal of their troops was determined by mutual agreement,” specifies the regime.
This weekend, several convoys took place between the advanced bases in the northwest, where 400 soldiers are deployed, and the capital Niamey, according to Nigerien and French security sources interviewed by AFP.
At least two convoys had allowed the bases of Ouallam and Tabarey-Barey to be supplied and several French soldiers were considered as priorities to be transported to Niamey.
The resupply made it possible to improve the situation of the French soldiers on site: the reserves of rations, water and fuel - and therefore the electricity produced from generators - could be counted in days.
This also made it possible to prepare for their departure from this region known as the “three borders”, between Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali , where they were deployed, in the fight against terrorism alongside the Nigeriens.
Few routes can be used to leave Niger. Land borders are closed with Benin and Nigeria . And the Nigeriens prohibit the overflight of their territory by French, civil and military aircraft, unless authorized otherwise.
The other borders have been reopened with five countries, Algeria, Libya , Burkina Faso, Mali and Chad, where the command of the French Forces in the Sahel is located, based in N'Djamena.
If the French containers are transported to Chad, they should then transit through the port of Douala, in Cameroon, according to a source close to the matter.
The Nigerien soldiers who came to power on July 26 by overthrowing elected president Mohamed Bazoum quickly engaged in a standoff with France, demanding the departure of its soldiers and its ambassador.
At the end of September, Emmanuel Macron announced the departure of the French ambassador to Niamey, Sylvain Itté, who returned to Paris at the end of September.
For its part, Algeria announced on Monday "suspend" its mediation intended to find a way out of the crisis in Niger, "until obtaining the clarifications that it considers necessary regarding the implementation of Algerian mediation " in Niger.
If the head of Algerian diplomacy, Ahmed Attaf, were to go to Niger, the exchanges between the two chancelleries on "the program and content of this visit" were not "conclusive", adds the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Algeria proposed a detailed six-month transition plan at the end of August. At the beginning of October, the Nigerien regime, however, recalled that the duration of the transition would only be set by an “inclusive national” dialogue.
A few days after coming to power, General Abdourahamane Tiani announced a transition lasting a maximum of three years.