Mali has called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to stop what it deems French “aggression.”
Mali accuses France of collaborating with militants.
Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop informs the Chinese Security Council presidency that Mali has the right to use force in self-defense if French attacks continue.
The relationship between France and Mali has worsened since the junta, which took control in August 2020 after protests against the government’s handling of the battle against the militants, refused to provide a timeframe for a return to civilian governance.
Earlier this year, Mali’s interim government withdrew from defense treaties signed with France and other European allies nearly a decade ago to assist the Malian military in stopping militant attacks. And in August, France pulls out its last troops from Mali.
The latest accusations mark a new low in relations between the two countries. Russian mercenaries hired by Mali’s military government expand their reach. The swap worries western powers who see their influence slipping in the Sahel region – Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Chad make up the region that separates North and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Mali accuses France of violating its airspace more than 50 times this year. Mali’s foreign affairs minister, Abdoulaye Diop, stated in a letter to the head of the United Nations Security Council on Monday that its airspace had been violated more than 50 times this year, largely by French forces employing drones, military helicopters, and fighter jets.
The accusations mark a new low in relations between Bamako and Paris. As France pulls the last of its troops out of Mali and Russian mercenaries expand their reach.
New partnership with Russia
Russia has become a close ally in Mali’s fight against a long-running insurgency in the Sahel. Mali received five military jets and a combat helicopter from Russia. It is the latest batch of deliveries under close ties forged since a coup in 2020.
Defence Minister Sadio Camara praised Mali’s “win-win partnership” with the Russian Federation.
The Russian government has acknowledged Russia’s Wagner Group presence in Mali but the Malian government has described them as instructors from the Russian military rather than private security contractors.
Mali is struggling to stem an insurgency that took root after a 2012 uprising. Early that year, a Tuareg separatist group – the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) rebelled for the fourth time.
The movement was backed by a collection of other militant groups among them Ansar Dine, al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).
After a coup in 2012 ousted then-President Amadou Toumani Toure, the group took over territories in the north – gained control over Timbuktu and Gao, destroying shrines and imposing a harsh interpretation of Islamic rule.
International powers have deployed thousands of troops to try to stabilise the country. France, through its Operation military Barkhane, intervened in January 2013 at the request of the Malian government to push back the militants.
A UN peacekeeping mission was also deployed in 2013 to support foreign and local troops battling the militants. (SABC with additional reporting by Reuters)