By James Tasamba
KIGALI, Rwanda (AA) – Mali called on France Wednesday to “restrain itself” from delivering “unfriendly and derogatory” remarks against the military government of the West African country.
The “unfriendly and derogatory remarks” are likely to “harm the development of friendly relations between the nations,” the Malian Foreign Ministry said in a brief message to Anadolu Agency.
The statement came after the Malian Foreign Ministry Tuesday summoned the French ambassador to Bamako to express its “displeasure” after French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the Malian government.
The verbal exchange was sparked by Macron’s remarks on Mali last Thursday, made on the sidelines of the Africa 2020 event at the Elysee Palace – where he questioned the legitimacy of the current government in Mali.
“We presided over the national tribute to Sergeant Maxime Blasco (a French soldier killed in Mali on Sept. 24) and he is buried among his own. What the Malian prime minister said is unacceptable. This is a disgrace. And it dishonors what is not even a government,” Macron was reported as saying.
It followed harsh words by Mali’s interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga at the UN General Assembly last month, which took aim at France, accusing the former colonial master of a “sort of abandonment in full flight” over its decision to drawback its military deployment in the semi-arid Sahel region.
Macron had earlier told French media that Maiga’s comments were “unacceptable,” suggesting that Mali’s transitional government was “not even really one” which took power in a coup led by Col. Assimi Goita.
On Tuesday, Macron called on Mali’s military junta to restore state authority in large areas of the country abandoned in the face of armed violence.
“It’s not the role of the French army to fill in for the ‘non-work’, if I may describe it, of the Malian state,” French media quoted Macron as saying.
This prompted Mali’s Foreign Ministry to summon France’s ambassador to express the government’s “indignation and disapproval” of Macron’s comments.
“Foreign Minister (Abdoulaye Diop) called on the French authorities to show restraint, avoiding value judgements,” the Tuesday statement said.
“Mali wants a constructive approach based on mutual respect,” it added.
In 2013, France sent troops to Mali after unrest broke out in the north of the country.
But relations between the two deteriorated following a coup in Mali in August 2020, which toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
France suspended military cooperation with Mali in June, and Macron announced he would close bases in northern Mali and draw down the presence of French troops in the Sahel region.
Col. Goita, who overthrew the leaders of the interim government in May in a second coup, has pledged to respect a February 2022 deadline for civilian elections set by the previous government.
But recent reports saying that the country’s military government is close to sealing a deal for hiring 1,000 mercenaries of Russian private security firm Wagner further angered France.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.