Hundreds of protesters in Mali rally against French military presence
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets of Mali’s capital to demonstrate against the French military presence in the West African country and demand for the total withdrawal of French troops.
"We are here for Mali, we are here to demonstrate our national sovereignty. To remind the whole world that sovereignty belongs to the people and that those who have not understood this must get up to speed today,” Mohamed Ousmane Mohamedoun, Member of the National Transition Council said.
“Because the transition for us today is the result of decades of mismanagement, misgovernance of our country and bad partnerships," hel said.
There is a tense dispute between Mali and its former colonial ruler France over reports Bamako could recruit Russian mercenaries as Paris reshapes its so-called counter-terrorism mission in Africa’s Sahel region.
Mali has been trying to contain an extremist insurgency since 2012. A military coup last year in Mali has complicated matters further, and the junta's leaders have faced criticism from France and the African Union.
Leaders of countries in West Africa’s Sahel region have abandoned their hopes in purported counter-terrorism efforts by France and started negotiating with armed militants to bring peace to the restive region.
The Sahel, a semi-arid stretch of land south of the Sahara desert, has been in turmoil since 2012, when a number of armed separatists started targeting the local population in Mali.
As a former colonial power seeking significant military presence in Africa, France decided to send thousands of soldiers in 2013 to try to prevent separatist forces from reaching Mali’s capital, Bamako.
Last year, France boosted its troop numbers for its so-called Operation Barkhane in the Sahel by 600 to 5,100 soldiers, but with the military presence failing to bring the situation under control, the UN also deployed its peacekeeping forces in the region.
Terrorist groups, linked to al-Qaeda and Daesh, have strengthened their foothold across the arid Sahel region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking local ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.
During a two-day summit on February 16, French President Emmanuel Macron appeared via video link from inside the Elysee palace to give France's view on the Sahel region's rampant militancy.