France is suspending its joint military operations with local troops in Mali to pressure the military junta there, which derailed a transition to democratic elections last week when it arrested interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and pushed them to resign, following an earlier coup last August.
Mali’s president resigns two days after detention:
Former vice president Assimi Goita, a colonel who led that coup and last week’s revolt, was declared president on Friday.
Pending guarantees of a civilian transition, French forces will continue to operate in the country separately, as they wage counter-insurgency operations against militants in Mali and the wider Sahel region. But President Emmanuel Macron warned on Sunday that France could withdraw after the latest power grab, especially if the junta decides to negotiate with militants.
France, the former colonial power, has more than 5 000 troops in Mali.
It has hailed some successes in recent months, but grown increasingly frustrated that there’s no end in sight to its operations.
Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union have suspended Mali from their organisations and threatened sanctions.
A spokesperson for the Malian army declined to comment on what he termed a political matter.
African Union suspends Mali’s membership, threatens sanctions following coup: