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Mali set to cut off military cooperation with France

Colonel Assimi Goita, the new interim president, walks during his inauguration ceremony in Bamako, Mali June 7, 2021. (Photo by Reuters)

Mali’s military administrators are set to fully cut off its military cooperation with the French government, condemning “flagrant violations” of its national sovereignty by the French forces there.

Spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga announced the move in a televised statement on Tuesday, saying, “For some time now, the government of the Republic of Mali notes with regret a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France.”

Maiga cited several violations of the country’s airspace by French troops to “spy” on Malian forces. He referred to the French government’s decision in June 2021 to end joint operations with Malian forces.

The spokesman also mentioned the French troops’ withdrawal from the country in February, which prompted celebrations by the anti-French population.

Thousands of demonstrators poured into the streets of the Malian capital of Bamako at the time, to celebrate the planned withdrawal. They burned a European flag and carried placards with messages such as “France is a terrorist nation,” amid simmering tensions between the West African country and its former colonial ruler.

The Malian authorities said they had informed Paris of the decision on Monday afternoon, but the French government has not yet issued any official reaction to the junta’s announcement.

The agreements Mali has ended with France include those that set the framework for the French intervention in Mali in 2014. They were signed a year after French troops deployed a large force there.

The development comes after Malian troops discovered a mass grave close to a former French military base. French forces handed the Gossi military base back to the Malian army just weeks ago.

The Malian army’s general staff revealed in a statement that “bodies in a state of advanced putrefaction were discovered in a mass grave, not far from the camp formerly occupied by the French force Barkhane.”

A French mission began in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. Accordingly, the French government deployed thousands of soldiers to presumably prevent separatist forces from reaching Bamako.

The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in roughly a year, amid growing demonstrations against France’s military presence.

Although France remains the only Western country with a significant military presence in the Sahel, its relationship with its former African colonies has grown increasingly tense in recent months. This has led to an evident increase in anti-French sentiment.

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