BAMAKO (Dispatches) – Protesters took to the streets of Bamako to demonstrate against the French military presence in Mali, calling for the total withdrawal of French troops from the country.
The protesters gathered in central Bamako on Friday, chanting anti-France slogans and calling for the total withdrawal of French troops from their country.
“We are here for Mali, we are here to demonstrate our national sovereignty. To remind the whole world that sovereignty belongs to the people and that those who have not understood this must get up to speed today. Because the transition for us today is the result of decades of mismanagement, misgovernance of our country and bad partnerships,” Mohamed Ousmane Mohamedoun, Member of the National Transition Council said.
“It doesn’t matter if France leaves or always stays. The point is that France is not the best suited to tell a country on the ground not to call on all its friends,” a protester said.
There is a tense dispute between Mali and France over reports Bamako could recruit Russian mercenaries as Paris reshapes its 5,000-strong mission in the region. The French Barkhane force is operating in Mali, Chad, Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania.
A military coup last year in Mali has complicated matters further, and the junta’s leaders have faced criticism from France and the African Union
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 despite the presence of French and UN troops.
Earlier in the month, Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said there is evidence that France has been training “terrorist” groups operating in the West African country.
A French mission began operating in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups.
This summer, French President Emmanuel Macron announced a gradual drawdown of France’s military presence in the Sahel and the end of the French military operation known as Barkhane.
Mali accused France of abandoning the conflict-ravaged country with the “unilateral” decision to withdraw troops. Mali’s military-dominated government then asked private Russian security companies for help in its fight against terrorism.