Mali breaks off from defense accords with France


Mali’s ruling junta announced on Monday it was breaking off from its defence accords with former colonial ruler France, condemning “flagrant violations” of its national sovereignty by the French troops there.

The announcement — threatened several times over the past few weeks — was the latest confirmation of deteriorating relations between the junta in Mali and France.

“For some time now, the government of the Republic of Mali notes with regret a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France,” spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said in a televised statement.

Maiga cited multiple instances of French forces having violated the country’s airspace.

He referred to the June 2021 decision by France to end joint operations with Malian forces.

And he mentioned France’s decision taken in February to pull out its troops from Mali.

The Malian authorities said they had informed Paris of the decision on Monday afternoon.

France has not so far issued an official reaction to the junta’s announcement.

Growing tensions

Tensions between France and the junta in Mali, which seized power in August 2020, had been rising for some time.

The agreements Mali has ended were those that set the framework for France’s intervention in Mali in 2014.

They were signed a year after French troops deployed a large force to help Mali’s armed forces stop a jihadist offensive there.

France’s relationship with Mali cooled as the junta resisted international pressure to set a timetable for a swift return to democratic, civilian rule.

Paris has also objected to the regime’s rapprochement with the Kremlin.

Both France and the United States have accused mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked security firm Wagner of deploying in Mali, where the junta claims the Russians are just military instructors helping to restore order.

Vast swathes of Mali lie beyond government control because of the jihadist insurgency, which began in 2012 before spreading three years later to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The military junta seized power in the impoverished and landlocked Sahel state following protests over the government’s handling of the war against the jihadists.

The conflict led to thousands of military and civilian deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

The junta initially promised to restore civilian rule, but it failed to meet an earlier commitment to West African bloc ECOWAS to hold elections in February this year, prompting regional sanctions.

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a swift return to civilian rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, all currently ruled by military regimes.

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