PARIS (The Southern African Times) – Changes to the French military presence in Africa’s Sahel region constitute neither France’s withdrawal from Mali nor a unilateral decision, the French foreign ministry said on Monday.”The transformation of our military presence in the Sahel is neither a withdrawal from Mali, nor a unilateral decision, and it is wrong to say otherwise,” a French foreign ministry spokesperson told a briefing, noting that the issue was negotiated with the Sahelian and Malian authorities during a G5 summit in France’s Pau in January 2020.
France remains committed to supporting Mali and other G5 Sahel states in their fight against terrorism, the diplomat added, recalling that a French soldier was killed during a counterterrorist operation in Mali last week.
The remark came in response to Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga’s address to the UN General Assembly on Sunday, during which he called France’s withdrawal a “unilateral” move that was coordinated neither with the UN nor with the Malian government.
Paris abandoned Mali “mid-flight to a certain extent,” prompting the African nation to explore new ways to ensure its security on its own or with new partners, Maiga said.
In June, French President Emmanuel Macron announced changes to the French military presence in Africa’s Sahel region, including the end of the counterterror Operation Barkhane in the Sahel by the first quarter of 2022. Instead, the French leader said that a broader international effort would be made.France launched the mission in cooperation with the armed forces of Mali, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, and Niger in 2014.