News / World

AFP
Wire Service
2 minute read
5 Oct 2021
11:01 pm

Macron tells Mali ‘state must return’ to abandoned territory

AFP

Macron on Friday is to attend a Franco-African meeting, bringing together thousands of Africans from grassroots groups, which aims at resetting relations.

French President Emmanuel Macron.(Photo by Michel Euler / POOL / AFP)

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday called on Mali’s junta to restore state authority in territory that had been abandoned in the face of a jihadist insurgency.

In remarks made at a time when tensions and finger-pointing between France and its former colony are high, Macron said the Malian state had to fill the void.

“It’s not the role of the French army to fill in for the ‘non-work,’ if I may describe it, of the Malian state,” Macron told France Inter radio.

“We cannot ask our soldiers to stand in to carry out the work of your state.”

France has deployed thousands of troops to the Sahel over the past eight years, shoring up former colonies facing a brutal jihadist insurgency.

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.

“The state has to return, bringing back justice, education, police everywhere,” Macron said, mentioning Mali and Burkina Faso in particular.

France has taken a close look at its strategy in the Sahel since the military seized power in Bamako in August 2020, forcing out Mali’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Macron has been incensed over reported overtures to the jihadists by the junta, and by its approach to Russia’s Wagner paramilitary group to provide security.

In the interview, Macron said the French armed forces had notched up “real results… real successes” against the jihadists.

In a veiled jab at those who accused France of neo-colonial interference, he said these troops were focusing “strictly on fighting terrorist groups.”

A major peril, Macron said, was that jihadists would move back into liberated territory, exploiting the vacuum that should be filled by the state.

“We are not the substitute for the people,” he said. 

France earlier this year unveiled plans to scale back its Sahel forces from more than 5,000 today to 2,500-3,000 by 2023.

The strategy involves closing three bases in northern Mali — Kidal, Timbuktu and Tessalit.

Last week Mali’s transitional prime minister, Choguel Kokalla Maiga, in a speech at the UN accused France of “abandoning” its ally — remarks that triggered a furious response from Paris.

“If France were not in the Sahel, there would be no more government in Mali,” Macron reiterated bluntly on Tuesday.

“The terrorists would firstly have taken over Bamako, and then the entire country.”

Macron on Friday is to attend a Franco-African meeting, bringing together thousands of Africans from grassroots groups, which aims at resetting relations.