Due to increasing calls for the demobilization of French troops, France has kept its promise to suspend military cooperation with Mali. His troops have already left the military base in Timbuktu, where they had been stationed since the site was liberating the area from Islamist militants in 2013.
The move is part of a reorganization of Operation Barkhane, already announced by French President Emmanuel Macron in June, which aimed to eliminate his 5,100-strong force that has fought jihadists in the Sahel since they entered Mali.
The Kidal and Tessalit bases were handed over to the Malian army in October and November last year, respectively.
French troops first established a base there when the city, along with several others in northern Mali, was liberated in 2013. Then-French President Francois Hollande visited Timbuktu the day after his liberation.
Barkhane’s representative in Mali, General Etienne du Peyroux, said the handover of the Timbuktu military base to Gao, which will now serve as Operation Barkhane’s northern base, is not an abandonment.
According to him, the goal of Operation Barkhane is, in fact, to allow Mali to take its destiny into its own hands.
However, the troop withdrawal has sparked mixed reactions in Mali, especially in the mind of Mohamed El Bashir, chairman of the Timbuktu municipal youth council, who said that “withdrawing Barkhane’s troops from Timbuktu will make the region less secure ”.
“It is not the same feeling here,” he said, “because the people of Bamako do not live what we are living here in Timbuktu. What we are living here, the people of Bamako are not living. They should come here, and we will go to Bamako, and they can ask Barkhane to leave, then they will understand. Thats the reality”.
Large protests in Bamako have called for the departure of French troops, with popular sentiment in the capital in favor of a possible Russian intervention in Mali.
French forces have been gradually withdrawing from the region, despite continued fighting with militants that threaten stability.
“What we have seen is not just random acts of violence under a terrorist banner, but a deliberate campaign trying to unite these diverse groups under a common cause,” Brig said. General Dagvin Anderson, head of the US Army’s Special Operations arm in Africa, told The Washington Post in February. “That increased effort represents a threat to the United States.”
Since 2013, Mali has weathered two more coups. Violence and killings have increased and have moved further south, towards the center of the country.
After weeks of street protests against perceived corruption and the government’s handling of a years-long conflict with armed groups, a coup in August 2020 toppled former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Since then, Colonel Assimi Goita has led the nation.
Goita promised Mali would return to civilian rule after holding presidential and legislative elections in February this year, but that plan is now threatened after a four-day national conference, held over the weekend, recommended a delay of five years for the return to democracy. in Mali.
A major coalition of political parties called the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) has already rejected the military-dominated government’s plan to extend a transition period of up to five years before the country returns to democratic rule.
The opposition group said that the “unilateral and unreasonable schedule” violated the transition charter “and in no way can it be the deep wish of the Malian people.”
In a recent development, Mali withdrew its ambassadors and closed its borders with West African nations.
This decision came after ECOWAS announced tough sanctions against the governing board.
Mali’s ruling junta said it “strongly” condemned the “illegal” sanctions imposed on the country by ECOWAS.
In a statement read on national television, the spokesman for the military regime, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, announced the withdrawal of Bamako’s ambassadors from the West African nations involved and the closure of air and land borders with them.
ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) on Sunday imposed a series of economic and diplomatic measures against Mali, including the closure of borders and a trade embargo, and said the intention of the board to remain in power for several more years was “totally unacceptable”.
The meeting in Ghana of regional leaders followed months of increased tension over the timetable to restore civilian rule in Mali after two coups and a military takeover.
“The Malian government strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions,” the board statement said. He accused ECOWAS and UEMOA of being “exploited by extra-regional powers with ulterior motives.”
The board said it “deplores the inhumane nature of these measures that affect populations already seriously affected by the health and safety crisis.”
Nigerian Institute of International Affairs (NIIA) associate professor Joshua Bolarinwa, in reaction to the departure of French troops, said Mali has been on France’s radar as the latter has been making efforts to withdraw from the country, and added that the coup brought by the current interim president, Goita ‘enraged France, because it was an extension of the growing radicalization of the Sahel.
Giving context to the unfolding event, he said that while the majority of the population resides in the south, Tuareg and Arab groups in the sparsely populated north rebelled against the government in 1963, 1990 and 2006, attempting to gain autonomy for the region that called Azawad.
He said: “By implication, there is the problem that all the terrorist groups are taking over the countries around the Sahel, which covers the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Economic Community of Central African States ( ECCAS), Mauritania, Algeria and Libya. . ”
According to Bolarinwa, immediately Goita became Head of State, the leaders of Azawad paid him two courtesy visits. By implication, he said they are leading and supporting the coup.
He explained that Russia’s foray into the Sahel, particularly in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR), where it has offered its support and pledged to supply Mali with weapons, has left France uncomfortable.
“France’s troop withdrawal from Timbuktu is the result of a long provocation against the current Malian government due to its association with Russia. Russia is succeeding in Mali now and by extension they can move to Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, ”he said.
He called on ECOWAS, ECCAS and AU to act fast and make a strong point.
Bolarinwa noted that Timbuktu and Gao are ancient cities that have implications for Mali’s survival.
Lead City University professor Professor Alaba Ogunsanwo said that the withdrawal of troops is not a concern for Africa, noting that “Mali has the ability to consider its own security interests above any other nation.” Ogunsanwo said that foreign nations also take actions based on their national interest.
He noted that France is tired of the Mali-Russia partnership. If the government is no longer interested, you can tell them to leave.
The president of the Bolytag Center for International Diplomacy and Strategic Studies (BOCIDASS), Prof. Bola Akinterinwa, said the news was met with mixed reactions of happiness and unhappiness.
The latter, because Mali has managed to force France away, adding that France has been there for more than two decades and the army has failed to end the terror and unhappiness for France because they have different strategic interests to protect and maintain.
“They argue that they have been victims of rapes, attacks and others, engendered by having a French military designation,” Akinterinwa explained.
He added that the issue of mining in Mali, for example, is of critical importance to France.
According to him, during Prof. Bolaji Akinyemi’s tenure as Minister of Foreign Affairs, the people of Mali were divided and a regional intervention in the country was necessary.
Akinyemi was sent on a peacekeeping mission, but they did not want such an intervention, which they perceived as an Anglophone intervention. This example is to show that there was a time when the French were sought out and the time has come when they are no longer wanted.
Akinterinwa noted that France would need to re-strategize as Mali is now forced to confront terrorism on its own.
However, he said that the result of this move is not limited to Mali but to other African countries where terrorism is flourishing.
Source Credit: TheGuardian
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