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Mali summons French ambassador over Macron's comments

French President Emmanuel Macron talks to reporters after arriving for an EU summit in Kranj, Slovenia, on October 5, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

Mali's Foreign Ministry has summoned France's ambassador to Bamako after President Emmanuel Macron accused the country's junta of "non-work."

Macron on Tuesday said French soldiers could not carry out the work of the African state, calling on Mali's junta to restore law and order in the Sahel region territories overtaken by extremist militants.

"It's not the role of the French army to fill in for the 'non-work,' if I may describe it [that way], of the Malian state," Macron told France Inter radio, blaming its former colony for the militancy in the past years.

In response, Mali's Foreign Ministry said on the same day that the African state's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop had summoned the French ambassador to Bamako, Gilles Huberson, to inform him of the Malian government's "indignation and disapproval" of Macron's comments.

"The minister called on the French authorities to show restraint, avoiding value judgments," the statement said, adding that Bamako expected a "constructive approach based on mutual respect."

The semi-arid Sahel region south of the Sahara desert has faced crisis since 2012, when a number of extremist militant groups started their activities, targeting the local population in Mali. Militants affiliated with al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups have used central and northern Mali as a launch pad for terrorist operations across the Sahel region, especially on neighbors Niger and Burkina Faso.

French troops, who allegedly help the Malian army fight the militants, have failed to curb the growing militancy.

Despite the French military presence in Mali, thousands of people have died and hundreds of thousands have been displaced, while swathes of the country have little or no state presence.

France decided to reduce the number of its soldiers in June following the coup that ousted elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020.

The junta leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the August coup, installed a civilian-led interim government but then deposed the leaders of that interim government in May, in what was seen as a second coup.

Meanwhile, Mali's ruling military has reached out to Russia to hire 1,000 paramilitaries from Russian private-security firm Wagner to help the Malian military crackdown on militants.

That has angered the French government, which claims it remains militarily committed to the alleged fight against the militants in Sahel.

Mali Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga, however, has accused Macron of abandoning his country with his "unilateral" decision to withdraw troops.

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