Reality dawning that Mali, France ‘divorce’ is clearly beyond salvage

Saturday February 05 2022
French soldiers

French soldiers patrol Timbuktu, Mali, last December. France’s anti-jihadist military force in the Sahel, which involves over 5,000 troops will end in the first quarter of 2022. PHOTO | AFP


The relations between Mali and France have for a long time been shaky, but officials in Bamako have always dismissed suggestions of it leading to severing of ties.

In fact the West African country’s Transitional Prime Minister, Choguel Maïga, has a favourite saying: “the relations between Bamako and Paris is just household disagreement that can never lead to a divorce,” he often says.

This week, that happened after Mali ordered the French ambassador to Bamako to leave the country for representing a hostile country. And Maïga himself has been at the forefront of the war of words that has caused political analysts to predict an end to this decades-old ties.

Aboudou Cheaka Toure, a retired diplomat and former Representative of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in Mali says it appears this is the end of the road for the two countries with the expulsion of French ambassador Joël Meyer last week.

“This Franco-Malian adventure seems to have crossed limits that are difficult to measure. It looks like a point of no return,” he says.

Among the eight former French colonies in West Africa, Mali has been one of the most obedient to France, in the sense that it posed the least challenge to French interests. But all that began changing around 2012, with the emergence of the insurgency in Mali.


Mali’s advance towards Russia made France angrier. The recent escalation that led to the expulsion of the French ambassador followed remarks made by French authorities in connection to the Russians’ involvement in Mali. It all started with the deployment of Danish troops in the West African country.

France appeared to have regretted its threat to pull out from Mali and is encouraging other Western countries to deploy forces to protect Western interest against Russian domination.

Bamako said it didn’t give authorisation for the deployment of the Danish troops and so it ordered their withdrawal from its territory, much to the dismay of France. French Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parly accused Bamako of failing to meet its commitments.

In response, Mali government spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, accused the French of seeking to divide Malians, asking Ms Parly to “keep quiet.”

Two days later, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian denounced the “irresponsible measures” of an “illegitimate” junta for forcing the Danish troops out.

That statement seemed to have driven the last nail on the coffin. Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop described Mr Le Drian’s remarks as “contemptuous” and “insulting,” vowing that it would attract “consequences.”

The French ambassador was soon summoned to the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Bamako before being given 72 hours to leave the country.

The “war” between the two former allies is being fought even on the pages of newspapers.

One Malian publication captured the feelings in an editorial: “If the one who was praised yesterday is suddenly hated [today], shouldn’t that warrant a rethink?” it wrote.

It goes on: “One must ask whether the legitimate request of respect by the Malian state is well received in Paris. What other African states think out loud, Mali now expresses admirably out loud.”