Senegal - Mali - France - Tension

Mali reacts to French criticism as feud deepens

APA-Dakar (Senegal)

Mali's Foreign Affairs minister, Abdoulaye Diop, has responded combatively to statements by French Secretary of State, Chrysoula Zacharopoulou, at the opening of the Dakar Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, critcising the junta in Bamako.

By special correspondent Abdourahmane Diallo

 Bamako took exception to Zacharopoulou's comments directed at the authorities in Mali. 

In her speech at the opening on Monday of the 8th edition of the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security in Africa, she accused the military regime in Bamako of having relegated the fight against jihadism to the background of its own security.

 "Faced with Malian authorities who have decided to prioritise their own political survival to the detriment of the fight against terrorism, the political conditions were no longer right for France to continue working alongside the Malian armed forces," she said.

 Not surprisingly, Bamako's response was swift. 

Speaking on Tuesday at the plenary session on global crises and sovereignty in Africa, Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop described Ms Zacharopoulou's speech as a great public relations operation but one that lacked sincerity.

 "It was politically correct to hear, but it is very far from reality. She said that the regime in Bamako is fighting for its survival. I believe that a regime that has such a popular base does not have to worry about its survival. Mali is fighting for its survival as a state. And the survival of the Malian state has been threatened because France, at the head of an international organisation, intervened in Libya for an operation whose objective is not known to this day," he countered.

 "What has been done to manage the after-sales service and avoid that a foreign operation ends up destabilising the whole region," he asked before specifying that "the survival we are talking about is the survival of our states".

 On Monday, the French representative at the forum in Dakar indicated that her country no longer intends to replace African armed forces to ensure security on the continent. 

This idea was dismissed by the head of Malian diplomacy.

 No presence of Malian state in Kidal

 "It replaces the African armies because when France came to help us liberate our territory in 2013, we liberated Gao and Timbuktu together. But 50 km from Kidal, the French army stopped the Malian army dead in its tracks, saying it could not enter. Today, 10 years later, the Malian army and the Malian state are not present in Kidal. For 10 years it (France) has been working in northern Mali with rebel groups. It has chosen its friends in the country. This is not normal," he added.

 Diop also tried to refute Zacharopoulou's assertion that Paris reinforces the sovereignty of African countries. 

"Mali left the G5 Sahel because the sovereignty of countries is not respected. Mali is one of the founding countries. France is not a member, but it is France that vetoed Mali's presidency. So, I don't think we're here to do self-service to please some people. To be effective, partnerships must be sincere, far from any colonial reflex. But also, there must be a win-win approach," he said.

 The G5 Sahel is an institutional framework for coordinating and monitoring regional cooperation on development and security policies, created at a summit in February 2014 by five Sahelian states.

They are Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad in an area spread over 5,097,338 km².



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