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Mali tells France to keep ‘colonial reflexes’ to itself, stop meddling

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A soldier is seen at the headquarters of the new Takuba force in Gao, Mali, on August 20, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Mali has called on France to keep its "colonial reflexes" to itself and not interfere in its internal affairs after Paris upbraided the African country for rejecting Denmark's troops.

Mali’s transitional government on Monday asked Denmark to immediately withdraw its nearly 100 troops, saying the Danish contingent in the Takuba Task Force (TTF) lacked a proper legal basis and that their arrival had “taken place without its consent.”

The TTF was established in March 2020 to help Mali and its West African Sahel neighbors, namely Burkina Faso and Niger, combat militants linked to Daesh and al-Qaeda, which have occupied swathes of territory in the area where their borders meet.

On Tuesday, Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod claimed that the troops were there on a “clear invitation.”

“The Danish contribution has been accepted both by the previous Malian government and, on several occasions, by the current transitional government,” he said.

The Malian government said it was surprised since a decision on a request by Copenhagen in June to deploy soldiers was still pending. “No accord authorizes the deployment of Danish special forces to” the TTF, it added.

On Wednesday, France and 14 other member states of the European task force called on Mali to allow Danish special forces to remain in the African country.

“They act in full accordance with international and national laws in their support to the Malian armed forces and in their long-standing fight against armed terrorist groups,” they said in a statement.

Mali hit out at France, whose relations with the former African colony have soured since the current government came to power in August 2020.

“We invite [France’s Defense Minister Florence] Parly to show restraint and respect the basic principle of not interfering in the domestic affairs of a state,” the Malian government’s Abdoulaye Maiga said.

“We invite them [the Danes] to be careful about some partners who sadly have problems getting rid of their colonial reflexes,” Maiga added.

Norway, Portugal, and Hungary are still waiting for approval and have not yet deployed troops, the Malian government said earlier.

Denmark to pull out troops of Mali

On Thursday, Copenhagen said in a statement that it would withdraw its contingent following repeated demands by the Sahel country.

Mali has become increasingly engulfed in violence since a Tuareg uprising in 2012 was hijacked by extremist militants, who perpetrated ethnic killings and attacks on government forces and civilians.

In 2013, France intervened in Mali to purportedly curb militants who had captured the desert north, before deploying troops across the Sahel. While it has sent more troops and the UN has also its own peacekeeper troops in the African country, violence has continued to intensify and spread in the region.

The TTF was set up as a partial successor to French forces in the West African Sahel region after French President Emmanuel Macron started to scale the operation back. 

The task force is supposed to provide special forces, logistical and tactical support, and work alongside regional troops against Takfiri terrorists.

Nearly 7,000 people died due to the fighting in Mali in 2020. The UN declared late last year that more than two million people had been forced to flee their homes because of the conflict, a number that has quadrupled since 2019.

More than 14 million people in Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.

The withdrawal of French troops came amid growing demonstrations against their presence in Mali which has been racked by two military coups in little over a year.

President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Sunday that a French officer had been killed in a mortar attack on France’s main military base in northern Mali the day before.

France has been one of the world’s colonizing countries that after many years of slavery still controls countries spread over more than 12 territories and treats their people as second-class citizens.

It has had more than 50 military interventions in Africa since 1960, when many of its former colonies gained nominal independence.  

France currently has 5,100 troops in the arid and volatile Sahel region. Under a new plan, they will be reduced to 2,500-3,000 troops. Analysts say it is premature to call it the end of France's military intervention in Africa, believing Paris is only readjusting its post-colonial plans. 

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