“If we are in Mali, we stay there, but not under any conditions. The head of French diplomacy Jean-Yves Le Drian was very clear after an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brest, as tension is at its height between the junta Mali and the European Union. The latter is preparing, in the wake of West African countries, sanctions against the Malian soldiers who have postponed the elections and the transition for several years.
The military commitment in the anti-jihadist fight in Mali by the French and the Europeans will therefore be “not at any price”. “We are preparing sanctions against those who are obstructing” the transition, the head of European diplomacy Josep Borrell had previously declared during the final press conference. Malians responded massively this Friday to the call of the ruling junta in Bamako to demonstrate against West African sanctions.
The presence of the Russians, point of tension
“If we are safe to demonstrate, we must surely be safe to vote”, quipped the French Minister of Foreign Affairs while the junta led by Colonel Assimi Goïta argued the persistent insecurity in the country to push back until ” at five years the elections initially scheduled for February 2022. Mali has been plunged into a serious security and political crisis since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in 2012, and has experienced two coups d’état in August 2020 and May 2021.
France, militarily present in Mali for nine years to fight against the jihadists, is in the process of reducing its troops there while maintaining troops in northern Mali in Gao, Ménaka and Gossi. The Europeans are present in the Takuba force, made up of special forces and nearly 900 soldiers strong, but the deployment of Russian instructors in recent weeks has aroused concern and anger. For the EU and France, they are mercenaries from the Russian paramilitary group Wagner. Jean-Yves Le Drian accused this group on Tuesday of “supporting” the ruling junta in Mali under the guise of fighting against jihadists.