In the latest verbal volley in the week-long conflict, Mali has accused France of dividing the country purposefully and committing espionage against Islamist militants.
In a meeting with global diplomats on Monday evening, to which the media was also invited, Choguel Maiga, appointed interim prime minister following a coup last year, made no evidence to support his claims.
Mali’s former colonial ruler France is facing escalating opposition to its military presence as the country’s 9-year counter-insurgency strategy in the Sahel region unravels. Maiga’s remarks will further aggravate tensions.
After France’s troops arrived in 2013, jihadists affiliated with al Qaeda were able to regroup and continue to attack, said Maga.
Maiga said the intervention de facto divided Mali, which contributed to the sanctuarization of our territories by terrorists who took refuge and organised themselves to return to the battlefield.
According to Maiga, a United Nations peacekeeping plane spying on the construction of Malian army bases had been directed by France on its behalf. The United Nations would not comment.
After less than 24 hours of his arrival, Mali expelled a journalist from one of its publications, Jeune Afrique. Authorities said he did not have the required accreditation.
There are growing tensions between Europe and Mali. Air travel has been suspended by Paris and the European Union who have imposed sanctions on Mali’s leaders for delaying elections. Last week, Mali expelled the French ambassador and asked Danish troops from an EU special forces mission to leave the country.
After it said it would not hold elections until Dec. 2025 – nearly four years later than planned – the Mali government has been isolated, as well as under sanctions from West African nations.
A French military presence remains in Mali’s desert north as part of a mission to fight violence by al Qaeda-linked violent jihadist groups, but these troops are being withdrawn.
At the behest of officials, Russian contractors and trainers have begun arriving in Mali, and have so far been well received.
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