Recently, Radio RFI has announced that Malian authorities made accusations against France, citing a letter of Mali’s Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, that alleged that Paris was supplying terrorists with weapons and called for the convening of an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. In his August 15 letter, Abdoulaye Diop cited some 50 cases of violations of Mali’s airspace by French forces without authorization from the African country’s authorities since the beginning of this year alone. The minister condemned such activities by drones, helicopters, and fighter jets of French forces flying over the country, accusing the former metropolis of violating the airspace of the republic, espionage, and intimidating the national armed forces (FAMa). On June 15, 2022, a fighter plane of the French anti-terrorist unit “Barkhane” conducted dangerous maneuvers in close proximity to a transport plane of the Malian Air Force. The pilot did not respond and his actions almost led to a plane crash.
Minister Diop said Mali had “several pieces of evidence” that France used illegal overflights into Malian airspace to gather intelligence for terrorist groups operating in the Sahel to drop weapons and ammunition. For example, on the night of August 7, a Barkhane helicopter dropped several Malian citizens of the Timbuktu Local Self-Government Forces in an unknown direction. On August 8, French troops delivered an unknown load to the Labbezanga area, and a French drone illegally filmed Republican Army activities in Gossi, intending to use this footage against FAMa. Malian authorities also have other materials compromising French activities in Mali. In this context, the head of the Malian Foreign Ministry’s letter calls for the convening of an emergency meeting of the Security Council.
French authorities have not yet responded to these allegations.
Relations between Bamako and Paris deteriorated sharply earlier this year, prompting Malian authorities to call for the withdrawal of French troops from the country. In late January, Malian authorities demanded the recall of the French ambassador from Bamako over “hostile remarks” made against them by French officials. And in early May, France was informed of the Malian transitional government’s unilateral decision to cancel the defense cooperation agreement linking the parties and its demand to withdraw troops involved in the “Barkhane” and “Takuba” counterterrorism operations. At the same time, it was highlighted that French forces launched Operation Barkhane in 2014, but during that time they failed to minimize the terrorist threat in Mali. As a result, authorities in Bamako refused to cooperate with Paris and demanded the withdrawal of the French military contingent from the country.
Finally, in July, Paris announced the official end of Operation Takuba and, in mid-August, that all French troops involved in Operation Barkhane had left Mali.
It should be noted that since the beginning of the year, a large wave of demonstrations against the former metropolis flooded the African continent. The Africans regularly go on demonstrations and demand that Paris and its Western allies leave them alone. The people of the Black Continent eventually became disillusioned with the Western “curators” and stopped believing in the “strength” and “invaluable aid” they touted, which only exacerbated the already difficult situation in the region.
Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga, speaking last fall at a meeting of the General Assembly of the UN, stressed that France had left Mali alone with the terrorists, prompting the country to look for new and more reliable allies. According to a representative of the country’s authorities, France and Western actors are responsible for strengthening terrorist groups in the region. More and more information emerged in Mali’s and the region’s media about how foreign forces defended their own hegemony and did not allow the republic to escape the control of the former metropolis. Using specific examples, the media showed that the “war on terror” proclaimed by the West was an excellent cover for plundering the country and that the West actively used the radical threat because it is easier to steal African resources from a state involved in an armed conflict.
This is why the protests in Mali began in the summer of 2020. The country’s inhabitants actively demanded the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was a protégé of France. These events then marked the beginning of a wave of discontent with the former metropolis and its puppets, not only in Mali but also in several countries in the region that had historically been in Paris’s traditional zone of influence. Since then, Mali’s residents have been demanding that France leave the republic alone and stop interfering in the country’s internal affairs.
The anti-French protests continue to this day. Malian authorities have made it clear that they oppose France’s activities and intend to find a worthy partner interested in developing mutually beneficial relations. The inhabitants of the Republic supported this demand of the authorities. Residents of Mali and some other countries in the region pointed to Russia’s successes in the Central African Republic and wanted to learn from Bangui’s experience in training national security forces and effective army structures of their own, capable of countering external and internal threats and ensuring the security of the country and its own people – with the participation of Russian instructors.
According to many observers, the increase in such anti-French protest actions is easily explained as the continent’s response to years of Western intervention that has caused serious damage to it. It is well known, not only on the Black Continent, that France has for decades pursued a colonial policy and ignored the sovereignty and independence of African states. The Elysee Palace hindered in every possible way their development and independent policies and prevented any deviation from the “norm” with various sanctions and restrictions.
But times are changing, and the self-assertion of African states and dissatisfaction with Western dictates is increasing. Actions against the US, NATO, and European structures increasingly add to anti-French sentiments. And this wave of protests is turning into a tsunami that is sweeping the West away from the continent without giving it the slightest chance of returning to such a policy.
Vladimir Danilov, political observer, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.