Macron: France has 'no goal of staying in Mali for long time’
French president expresses intention to close military bases in Mali as quickly as possible
French President Emmanuel Macron said Friday at a summit that his country has “no goal of staying in Mali for a long time.”
The Africa-France Summit was held in Montpellier, where young Africans participated without the involvement of the heads of states of African countries.
Macron, the only president at the summit, said he wants to close military bases in Mali as quickly as possible but there should be "strong state” and “investment projects,” and his goal is not to have bases on African soil forever.
The French president said his country is in Africa not to support any regime, but to fight terrorism.
Macron, who said the French army is in Mali at the request of the Malian government, told African governments that France is reducing support in terms of investment and Paris wants to carry out projects with civil society.
Curious dialogue at summit
But an exchange between Macron and an African teen at the summit attracted attention.
The teen said: "What happened in the Sahel is a result of what was done in Libya. In the intervention in Libya, (France) forgot about the existence of the African Union.
“'We are in Mali to help Mali, there would be no government in Mali right now if we hadn't come to the Sahel region,' you like to say that. But I want to say that without the Africans, there would be no France today.”
“Stop telling me you're here to help us. Terrorism is not only threatening Mali, it is also threatening you. Stop making us feel guilty by putting us in a victim position,” he added.
Macron responded: "I am trying to build a dialogue within the framework of mutual respect. We didn't come to Mali in 2013 for our own interests. This is a fact. I have said what you said about Libya several times as president.
“I agree with what you're saying. We did not respect the sovereignty of the people over Libya. This is a mistake.”
The teen retorted by saying that France was in the Sahel region to compensate for its mistake in Libya.
"You are making other mistakes in trying to make up for this mistake of yours. Mr. President, I would like to remind you that foreign military interventions have never solved problems,” he said.
“What about Libya today? What about Afghanistan? Therefore, military intervention will not solve the problems. I don't want my country to be like Libya.
“Take their responsibility and stop saying 'we're here to help'. No, you're not here to help us,” he said. “We're together. We have a common enemy. We are fighting with him together. The statements made between you and the Malian authorities in recent days are deceptive. We need cooperation and partnership, not help.”
Macron told the teen that he agreed with what he said. “You cannot upload unacceptable statements of people without legitimacy to me. They made unacceptable statements,” he said.
Macron, who expressed that African authorities have not completely fulfilled their responsibilities in the fight against terrorism, noted that military interventions will not replace the work done by a state.
He said he did not send the French army to an area against the sovereign state or in its place.
Wagner's polemic between France, Mali
The Prime Minister of Mali, Choguel Kokalla Maiga, accused France, which decided to withdraw from Mali, of acting unilaterally when allegations were raised that Russian security company, Wagner, would be stationed in the country.
Laurent Michon, commander of Operation Barkhane, which France is conducting in the Sahel, also said that the Bamako administration has been in talks for about two years about the decision to withdraw from three bases in northern Mali.
Macron, however, was shocked by Maiga's comments, stating that "These shameful statements from a country where there have been two consecutive coups, where there is not even a government, are unacceptable.
“We are in Mali at the request of the state of Mali. Without France, Mali would have fallen into the hands of terrorists."
French Ambassador to Bamako, M. Joel Meyer, was then summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mali on Oct. 6.
Wagner's claim that it will be stationed in Mali
It was claimed that the military-dominated transitional government established after the coup in Mali and Wagner was about to sign an agreement providing training of the Mali army and protection of high-ranking officials.
It had been suggested that about 1,000 mercenaries could go to Mali, and in return, a monthly payment of $10.8 million would be made.
Malian authorities have not denied the allegations and have said they are open to any cooperation on security.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also confirmed that Malian officials met with Wagner, stressing that Mali had the right to summon "Russian private companies" to the country.
In the Russian press, it was suggested that a group of Russian mercenaries had been in Mali since Oct. 1.
Wagner can be in 9 countries in Africa
Wagner mercenaries, in the countries of their deployment, train local armies, protect important names, fight insurgent or terror groups and ensure the safety of gold, diamond and uranium mines in hot spots.
It is believed that Russian mercenaries are engaged in activities in Libya, the Central African Republic, Sudan, Mozambique, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Madagascar, Zimbabwe and Angola.
*Writing by Merve Berker
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