Strongman Assimi Goita (centre) is serving as interim president in Mali.
Mali's ruling junta on Monday has ordered the French ambassador to leave the West African country, accusing France of undermining its legitimacy amid mounting tensions between Mali and its African neighbours and European partners.
The action puts into question a French-led anti-terrorist military operation present in the region at the request of Malian leaders. It also comes amid growing European concerns about the presence of Russian mercenaries in Mali, a former French colony.
A French diplomat said the French government took note of Mali's decision to expel the ambassador, and reiterated France’s commitment to the stabilisation and development of the Sahel region, without elaborating. The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive diplomatic situation.
This latest episode in the diplomatic crisis between Mali and its foreign partners comes days after the Malian government ordered Danish soldiers deployed in the French-led Takuba military operation to leave Mali. Also earlier this month, regional group ECOWAS imposed sanctions on Mali, and Mali's leaders expelled its representative from the country.
Tensions between Mali and its European and regional allies have been mounting in recent weeks, as Mali’s interim leader Col. Assimi Goita has delayed elections until 2026, solidified his control and showed reluctance to uphold Mali’s international agreements.
French Barkhane force soldiers leave their base in Gao, Mali. File/AP
The Malian government summoned French Ambassador Joel Meyer on Monday and said he had 72 hours to leave the country, according to a Malian government statement announced on state television.
"This measure follows the hostile and outrageous comments made recently by the French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs and the recurrence of such comments by the French authorities with regard to the Malian authorities,” the statement added.
The statement didn't specify which French comments it was referring to.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said last week that Mali's junta is "illegitimate and takes irresponsible measures." French government ministers have said in recent days they want to keep troops in Mali, but have called for discussions with Mali’s leaders and regional powers on the conditions for them to stay.
Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said on Malian television Monday night that the ambassador would be welcome to return if the French government clarifies it position toward the transitional government.
French foreign legionnaires get ready in Niono, Mali. File/AP
He said unspecified comments by French officials were "unacceptable” because they "questioned the legality and legitimacy" of Mali's current leaders. "This is a difficult situation, because you cannot be accredited to authorities that you yourselves don't recognize,” he said.
"France is the only country in a posture of direct attack against the legality and legitimacy of the transitional authorities,” he said. "We have a dispute on a political level with France, that doesn't concern French citizens or French businesses here, and French people remain welcome in Mali. We remain open to dialogue with France."
Since a second coup in May 2021 and the arrival of Prime Minister Choguel Maiga, tension has grown between the transitional authorities in Mali and the French government. The situation worsened after some European countries, including France, expressed concern that Mali's interim government has accepted the presence of Russian security contractors from the Wagner Group on its territory.
Last month, the EU slapped sanctions on eight people and three oil companies linked to Wagner, which is accused of rights abuses in the Central African Republic, Libya and Syria.
Mali has been battling a militant insurgency in the north since 2012, and in 2013 France intervened to stop militants who had seized swaths of the sprawling country, also at the request of Malian leaders.
In the video one of the soldiers appears to be filming the scene. The Caucasian soldiers in the video are believed to be members of the Wagner Group, a Russian mercenary force, the officer said.
French President Emmanuel Macron announced in Paris on Thursday that French troops along with that of other European countries will leave Mali after 13 years. But they are not moving out of the region. They will move to neighbouring Niger
Unidentified assailants killed 38 soldiers during the Sept. 30 attacks, among the heaviest losses for Mali's army this year as it struggles to repel increasingly brazen raids by militant groups, some with links to Al Qaeda and Daesh.
Muizzu was leading the count with 54% of the vote against 46% won by Solih, local media reported. Maldivians also voted at polling stations in India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Britain and Abu Dhabi.
The programme is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of seniors through various housing initiatives and services within its projects. I
This will be coinciding with the launch of the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (Adipec) 2023. Vehicles of public cleaning companies and logistical support vehicles are excluded from decision.
The Dubai Future Experts Program, developed by the Dubai Future Foundation in collaboration with The Executive Council of Dubai, prepares a group of future-focused experts in different sectors across Dubai’s government.