Mali Expels French Ambassador

Tension continues to mount between Mali and France. The Malian authorities, dominated by the military, have decided to expel the French ambassador, announced Monday, January 31, a press release read on state television:

“The government of the Republic of Mali informs national and international opinion that today (…) the French ambassador in Bamako, his Excellency Joël Meyer, was summoned by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation [and ] that he was notified of the government’s decision inviting him to leave the national territory within seventy-two hours. »

Read our analysis: Article reserved for our subscribers Between Paris and Bamako, a dead end escalation

The French foreign ministry said it took “note” of this decision. “In response, France decided to recall its ambassador ,” said the Quai d’Orsay. Paris also expresses “its solidarity vis-à-vis its European partners, in particular Denmark” , whose contingent has just been expelled by the junta in power in Bamako.

For his part, the head of diplomacy of the European Union (EU), Josep Borrell, described the junta’s decision as an “unjustified request” which “will isolate Mali” . “The EU stands in solidarity with France and Denmark, whose contingent has been sent back. The situation requires respect for commitments on the Malian side and dialogue ,” he added.

The Malian authorities have justified this measure by recent statements deemed “hostile” by French officials against them. The Minister of the Armies of the French Republic, Florence Parly, declared on January 25 that the junta was multiplying “provocations”. His foreign affairs counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian had, two days later, described the junta as “illegitimate” and its decisions as “irresponsible”, after the Malian authorities had pushed Denmark to withdraw its contingent of special forces .

“Hostile remarks”

In a press release read on Malian television, the privileged communication channel of the Malian authorities, the junta explains that the expulsion of the French ambassador to Mali, Joël Meyer, 60, in post in Bamako since October 2018, “follows to the hostile and outraged remarks of the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs made recently, to the recurrence of such remarks by the French authorities with regard to the Malian authorities in spite of the protests raised many times” .

“These statements tend to call into question both the legality and the legitimacy of the authorities to which the French ambassador is accredited (…) You cannot be accredited to authorities that you yourself do not recognize ,” said , for his part, in the evening the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop, still on state television.

The minister had warned Friday that his country did not exclude “nothing” in its relations with France, a former colonial power engaged militarily against the jihadists in Mali and the Sahel since 2013. In the press release broadcast on television on Monday, the Malian government affirms nevertheless reiterate “its readiness to maintain dialogue and pursue cooperation with all of its international partners, including France, with mutual respect and on the basis of the cardinal principle of non-interference”.

Relations between France and Mali have continued to deteriorate since colonels took over by force in August 2020 the head of this country, plunged since 2012 into a deep security and political crisis. They escalated further in May 2021, with a new coup by the same colonels, intended to strengthen their hold.

“Colonial Reflexes”

The junta has been opposed for several months to a large part of the international community, which is pressing for a return of civilians to the head of the country. The Economic Community of West African States imposed a series of severe diplomatic and economic sanctions on Mali on January 9.

France and its European allies are also alarmed by the call made, according to them, by the new Malian power to the mercenaries of the sulphurous Russian company Wagner, reputed to be close to the Kremlin. The Malian authorities persist in denying it, but praise the quality of its cooperation with Russia.

Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, minister and spokesperson for the so-called “transitional” government, delivered a virulent charge against Ms. Parly and France on Wednesday, accused of seeking to divide Malians, of “instrumentalising” the organizations sub-regional and retain its “colonial reflexes”. 

He had given Ms. Parly “advice” to keep quiet.

Mali has multiplied acts claiming sovereignty by asking for the revision of defense agreements with France or by pushing Denmark to withdraw a contingent of one hundred men deployed with the group of European special forces Takuba, initiated by France.

The Malian authorities now “require” that any deployment of military or civilian personnel under Takuba be subject to the prior invitation of the president (Colonel Goïta) and the agreement of the government, indicates a document transmitted Monday evening to the Agence France-Presse (AFP) by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

An “unacceptable” decision

France deployed more than 5,000 soldiers in the Sahel and Mali before deciding, in 2021, to reduce the contingent. She is now wondering about the terms of her presence. The Minister of Foreign Affairs declared on Friday that France and its European partners could not “stay as they are” . “Our fight against terrorism must continue, but no doubt under other conditions ,” he added on Sunday.

His Danish counterpart, Jeppe Kofod, deemed the expulsion of the French ambassador “unacceptable” . “Denmark is totally in solidarity with France ,” he said on Twitter. He described as “irresponsible” the attitude of the junta and considered that Mali was losing its “international credibility” .

For his part, the chief of staff of the French army remained cautious on the subject. “The question of the Sahel is eminently political ,” commented General Pierre Schill to the press: “Today, on a daily basis, our units continue their partnership with the Malian battalions. »

The Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs assured that the current “dispute” between capitals “does not affect the French nationals who are among us nor the French companies” .

The World with AFP

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