The Malian Government has announced that it is terminating all defence ties with France, the country’s former colonial ruler.
It cited multiple violations of its sovereignty by French troops in the country, and noted a “profound deterioration of the military co-operation with France for some time now”.
Multiple incidents of the French violating the country’s airspace were mentioned in a statement by military spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.
Mali also cited France’s plan to conclude joint operations with Malian forces and withdraw soldiers from the country in June 2021. Malian authorities said they informed France of its decision on Monday afternoon. France has however not commented on the development.
After the military seized power in Mali in 2020, relations between the two countries deteriorated.
Mali’s choice to battle extremists with militants from the Russian corporation Wagner enraged France, even if the junta denies they are in the country.
On August 18, 2020, a group of Malian soldiers led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was facing angry protests over the government’s failure to stem the violence. The coup is seen as a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, who had supported Keita and sought to improve relations with former colonies in Africa.
On March 30, 2021, in a rare criticism of French forces in Mali, United Nations investigators accused the French military of being responsible for the killing of at least 19 civilians at a wedding party in central Mali in an air raid three months before. France denied the findings, saying its forces targeted an “armed terrorist group” and that it had “numerous reservations about the methodology used” in the UN investigation.
On May 25, Goita pushed out a civilian-led government appointed to oversee a transition period, plunging the country into further uncertainty. He was named interim president on May 28.
In reaction to the power grab, France suspended its joint military operations with Malian forces on June 3 “awaiting guarantees” that civilians return to positions of power.
On June 10, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major “transformation” and drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel where about 5,100 soldiers across Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, operate under its Barkhane operation.
France decided on July 3 to resume its military operation in Mali, as well as its advisory missions.
On September 14, France warned Mali against a deal with Wagner as reports emerged the country’s military government was close to hiring 1,000 mercenaries.