Mali bans German military plane from West African nation’s airspace
Mali's authorities banned a German military plane with 75 troops on board from overflying the West African country on Wednesday, forcing it to divert to Gran Canaria.
The transport plane was on its way from a German air base to a logistics hub in Niamey in Niger when it was told it could not enter Mali's airspace, a spokesman for the German defence ministry in Berlin said.
Germany has deployed some 1,200 troops to Mali and has to decide by the end of May whether to extend the military mission which is supplied via the logistics base in Niamey.
Berlin has voiced concern over the latest developments in Mali after the arrival of private military contractors of the Russian Wagner Group and the interim authorities' failure to hold democratic elections next month as agreed following a 2020 military coup.
The European Union has announced that it will impose sanctions on Mali in line with measures already taken by the ECOWAS grouping of West African states. Decisions are likely by the end of January.
Leaders of countries in West Africa’s Sahel region have abandoned their hopes in purported counter-terrorism efforts by France and other European nations and started negotiating with armed militants to bring peace to the restive region.
France recently withdrew from Mali and the historic city of Timbuktu nine years after launching a war without the initial approval of the United Nations or even French parliament.
Mali initially became destabilized in 2011 following France’s illegal arms drops to anti-Gaddafi militants in Libya. The arms were then used by Tuareg separatists who have demanded more rights ever since colonial France first dictated Mali’s peculiar bow tie-shaped borders.
The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in little over a year, while increasing demonstrations against France’s presence could no longer be ignored or sufficiently repressed.
The war has been so ineffectual that Malians openly accuse France of arming the rebels, while the conflict is often dubbed “France’s Afghanistan”.
Paris has blamed Russian disinformation for turning Malian public opinion against France, but polls in the capital Bamako have shown that 80% of respondents believe that France is only in Mali to defend French interests.
France’s failed war in Mali has been even more degrading to its image at home and abroad than their failed involvement in Afghanistan. The war has been routinely cited by terrorists as justification for attacks in France.
France has had more than 50 military interventions in Africa since 1960, when many of their former colonies gained nominal independence. Mali remains among the poorest countries in the world, but that’s not due to a lack of resources.