How far will the divorce between France and Mali go? Pressure has been mounting on the ruling junta since the coup d’état that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) in August 2020. The UN Security Council will be visiting Bamako this weekend and to Niamey, a trip led by Niger’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdou Abarry, and his French counterpart Nicolas de Rivière, while relations between the military, their civilian showcase embodied by Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga, and the former colonial power continue to deteriorate. Mali has thus formalized the opening of a political dialogue with the two main figures of the jihadist insurgency, the Support Group for Islam and Muslims of Iyad Ag Ghali, and the Katiba Macina of Amadou Koufa, yet designated by the Élysée as the two main enemies of Paris in its “war against terrorism”, ie targets to be eliminated in an assumed policy of targeted assassinations. Unsurprisingly, it is the High Islamic Council of Mali which has been entrusted with this mission, in accordance with an ambition displayed since December 2019 and the holding in Bamako of an “inclusive national dialogue”.
But each other’s agendas and goals are moving further apart every day. Without real consultation with its G5 Sahel partners, denounces the Malian junta, France has unilaterally announced a significant reduction in its forces deployed in the region, which would drop from 5,100 soldiers to less than 3,000 in the next three years. Three military bases are being dismantled in northern Mali, including that of Tessalit, located a few tens of kilometers from the Algerian border. Taking note of this new situation, Choguel Maïga assumed, during an interview published by Le Monde on October 18, the paradigm shift and the search for new partners likely to replace the French sponsor. Bamako does not deny its discussions with Russia – several sources evoke a possible partnership with the private military company Wagner – and says “wished” for a strengthening of the role of Algeria in the fight against terrorism, at a time when bilateral relations between Algiers and Paris are also at their lowest.
The ruling junta under pressure from countries in the region
A perspective that arouses the ire of France and the United States, and which explains the strong mobilization of the UN Security Council. When China, Russia and India are represented this weekend by deputy ambassadors, Washington is sending Linda Thomas-Greenfield, UN ambassador elevated to the rank of minister in the Democratic government of Joe Biden, to the Sahel. On the French side, we hope to convince of the need for a significant reinforcement of the United Nations mission in Mali, i.e. 2,000 additional troops deployed in the center of the country, an area where the Malian army mainly intervenes and where the Katiba Macina is rife. by Amadou Koufa. The Malian junta is also under pressure from countries in the region. Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, current president of the Conference of West African Heads of State, visited Mali last Sunday to deliver a “firm message” on the holding of the next election scheduled for February and supposed to take effect. the transfer of power to civilians. The ECOWAS countries, like Alassane Ouattara’s Ivory Coast, intend to discourage putschist inclinations after the overthrow of IBK or Alpha Condé in Guinea.