Mali’s military government has announced a ban with immediate effect on French-funded NGOs in response to an escalating dispute between Paris and Bamako. This development comes after worsening relations between the two countries.
In a social media post, Mali’s interim prime minister, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, stated that the ban was a result of France’s recent suspension of development assistance to Mali. The official statement states, “The Transitional Government decides to forbid, with immediate effect, all activities carried out by NGOs operating in Mali with French funding or technical support, including in the field of humanitarianism.”
France stopped sending development aid because of Mali’s cooperation with a Russian military contractor, the Wagner Group, a network of mercenaries connected to the Kremlin. The French foreign ministry announced last week that it had reached a conclusion over Bamako’s suspected deployment of paramilitaries from the Russian group Wagner. However, Mali denies any links with the Russian military group. The Malian administration believes that the claims made by the French authorities are “fanciful” and “unfounded.”
This new escalation between the two countries also comes after the official end of the Barkhane operation in the Sahel, announced by French President Emmanuel Macron. France and its allies also withdrew troops from Mali as a result of disagreements with the military junta over its postponements of elections following the coups d’état in August 2020 and May 2021.
Mali Blasts France for Neocolonial Attitudes
As relations between Paris and Bamako continue to deteriorate, Mali’s army-led government urged French President Emmanuel Macron to drop his neocolonial attitudes. Government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said, “The transitional government demands President Macron permanently abandon his neocolonial, paternalistic, and patronizing posture to understand that no one can love Mali better than Malians.”
The Malian Junta believes that Paris’ goal is to manipulate public opinion and ultimately help to destabilize Mali. In this regard, the Junta has demanded respect for its sovereignty and the freedom to pick its own allies abroad.
In recent statements, Macron reiterated that French influence in the Sahel region and Francophone countries was fading. He stated that French as a language is slowly fading away. Macron also blamed Russia’s growing influence in the region as a major cause of insecurity. He accused Russia of spreading misinformation in the region.
The Malian junta has maintained closer ties with Russia, pushing France out of the diplomatic picture, despite denying that it has employed Wagner operatives. Paris reacted in kind to the junta by withdrawing its forces from Barkhane, which had been helping five Sahel countries fight Islamists, after reviewing its presence in West Africa.
Mali and France Timeline of Tensions
Mali and France have had tense relations ever since the country’s first military coup two years ago. Here is a timeline of events in the past two years.
- August 18, 2020: Military coup that ousted an elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, The coup is viewed as a blow to French President Emmanuel Macron, who supported Keita and sought to improve relations with former colonies in Africa.
- March 30, 2021: French forces in Mali are accused by UN investigators of killing 19 civilians at a wedding party.
- September 14, 2021: After France warned Mali against a deal with the Wagner group, reports emerged that the Junta was close to hiring more than 1,000 mercenaries.
- October 8, 2021: Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accuses France of training terrorist groups in the country. He claimed French troops had created a small group in Kidal, a town in northern Mali, and handed it over to Ansar al-Din, allegedly linked to al-Qaeda.
- December 24, 2021: Wagner mercenaries are deployed in the country. Mali denies this and states that Russian troops are in the country as part of a bilateral agreement.
- January 7, 2022: Russian soldiers were deployed to Timbuktu to train Malian soldiers.
- January 9, 2022: ECOWAS, backed by France, the US, and the EU, imposed trade sanctions on Mali after the Junta postponed elections for up to five years.
- January 31, 2022: Mali expels the French ambassador because of a statement by French officials.
- August 15, 2022: Complete withdrawal of French troops from Mali
- November 17, 2022: France threatens to shut down development aid to Mali.
- November 22, 2022: Mali’s Junta bans French-funded NGOs.