French forces pack up in Mali for West Africa withdrawal

2021-12-13 21:56:54
French forces pack up in Mali for West Africa withdrawal

France is organising a withdrawal in Mali after a nine-year deployment, with troops preparing to leave the last of three bases in the far north of the West African country.

French troops were sent to Mali in 2013 by then-president Francois Hollande to purportedly fight rebels affiliated to Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups in the north.

Paris has since deployed around 5,100 troops across the Sahel region, which includes Mali.

French President Emmanuel Macron announced a major drawdown of French troops in June amid questions over both the financial cost of the nearly decade-long mission and its rising human toll.

Paris also faces increasing difficulties on the ground including with local people who resent the presence of soldiers from the former colonial power.

Anti-French sentiment is rampant in Mali and Burkina Faso. On the streets of Bamako, Mali’s capital, many say that France is actually trying to keep the country weak so Paris can exploit secret gold and oil reserves in the Sahel.

Protests that were once isolated to urban centers have spread to rural areas, fanned by anger at the ever-worsening violence, as well as highly-publicised incidents of troops killing civilians.

In November, protesters in Burkina Faso and Niger hampered a large French military supply convoy travelling from Ivory Coast to Mali. Some threw stones and held signs saying "Down with France".

In September, Mali’s prime minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga accused France of training a "terrorist group" in the north of the country in an interview with Russian news agency RIA Novosti.

Observers accuse France of pursuing neo-colonialism in Africa, falsely claiming to fight terrorism as a pretext to maintain its influence in the region.

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