President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday announced that France would withdraw its ambassador from Niger, added that military cooperation was "over" and French troops would withdraw in "the months and weeks to come" with a full pullout "by the end of the year".
Empires do not die quickly.
History shows that the process is usually long, drawn out, and sometimes difficult to discern. But there is usually a single event that becomes an inescapable symbol.
It could be that the world has seen the latest example, in Africa’s west, with the coup in Niger, although the full picture is not yet clear.
So first, here are some historical comparisons to contextualise recent events.
The foremost traditional empire of the modern world also had one of the most emblematic endings. In 1956, the Suez Crisis showed the world the new limits of Great Britain’s power.
The loss of the Suez Canal confirmed Britain’s secondary status to the rising world powers – the United States and the Soviet Union – and helped the independence movements in many African colonies. Within around five years, rule from London was over for all of them.
The British Empire had become a rump of a few territories in the Gulf, and they were independent within 10 years.
The same process has been less obvious for the second most powerful empire of modern times: France. There is no such climatic event for it, although there is general agreement over the beginning of the end: the battle of Dien Bien Pho that took place in Vietnam in 1954, which brought an end to the French empire in Indochina.
While the Suez Crisis is always associated with the downfall of the British Empire, it also brought about the demise of French colonial rule in Africa, with France as one of the three nations that invaded Egypt to seize control of the canal alongside Israel and Britain.