French President Emmanuel Macron has announced the withdrawal of French and European troops from Mali within four to six months.
France has been engaged in fighting jihadism in Mali and across the wider region since 2013. More recently France has been winding down its presence in favor of Takuba, a European task force, but relations with the military regime in Mali have broken down in recent months.
“We cannot take action with authorities with whom we cannot agree,” he said. The Malian government recently expelled the French ambassador and Danish forces formed part of Takuba.
The center of European operations in the region will now shift to Niger, he said.
‘Struggle against terrorism cannot be business of African countries alone’
Macron made the announcement at a joint press conference in Paris with President Macky Sall of Senegal (current chair of the African Union), President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana (current chair of West African regional bloc ECOWAS), Charles Michel, president of the European Council, following a mini-summit also including the heads of state of Mauritania, Niger and Chad on Wednesday evening.
President Sall stressed the need for the United Nations Security Council to play a greater role. In terms of investment and security, all of Africa is concerned and the response must be global, he said, calling for a broader coalition to promote development in Africa.
“We have agreed with Europe that the struggle against terrorism in the Sahel cannot be the business of African countries alone, there’s a consensus on this,” he declared.
President Akufo-Addo echoed Sall’s call for the UN Security Council to assume responsibility for missions to restore peace and said it was not the right time for the UN’s MINUSMA peacekeeping force to leave the country. At the same time, he stressed that the armed forces of countries in the region should henceforth play the primary role in fighting terrorism in West Africa.
‘Who is expressing anti-French sentiment and who is paying them?’
Charles Michel emphasized the sacrifices that France has made – it has lost 53 soldiers in the last nine years – and said that France and Europe have worked in cooperation with their African partners.
He also criticised the anti-French sentiment that has been growing in Mali and neighboring countries.
“Who is expressing it and who is paying them to express it?” he asked, implying that an anti-French campaign had been orchestrated by outside powers.
The question of whether the Russian private security firm Wagner Group should be allowed to operate in the country has been a source of tension between Western powers and the Malian regime.
The leaders all later traveled on to the EU-AU Summit taking place in Brussels today and tomorrow.
Source: Africa Business