Relations between France and Mali, its former colony, have been strained for some time.
In recent weeks, they have deteriorated further.
Last January, ECOWAS, the West African bloc, imposed severe economic sanctions on Mali due to the “refusal” of the transitional authorities in Bamako to hold presidential and legislative elections.
These were scheduled for February 2022.
Bamako accuses France of being behind the ECOWAS sanctions.
Since then, talks between France and the Malian transitional government have reached an impasse.
Mali decided to expel the Danish contingent involved in ‘Operation Takuba’ because it had not agreed to their deployment.
In response to this decision, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian used very harsh and undiplomatic language against the Malian government calling “illegitimate” and said it was making “irresponsible decisions.”
The Malian response was not long in coming.
On January 31, the Malian authorities asked French ambassador Joël Meyer to leave the country within 72 hours.
This was an unprecedented thunderbolt in the bilateral relationship.
The Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop called Le Drian’s remarks “full of contempt.”
“We ask that Paris respects us as a country,” Diop said.
Expulsion of the French ambassador marks a low point in relations between Paris and Bamako.
Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga also made serious accusations against France during an interview with a Malian television channel.
He accused France of trying to “divide” the country.
Maïga asserted that it was France that had “destroyed Libya to spread weapons everywhere, bring mercenaries [to] cut Mali in half.”
“I have names,” Maïga said. “Everything is documented.”
In addition, according to Maïga, former rebel fighters “clearly say that it was France who told them ‘we will divide Mali and give you independence.’ They later understood that France wanted to use them to weaken the Malian state and [to] do what it wants.”
Mali firmly believes that France made a mistake in Libya and that it has every reason to worry and doubt its “ally.”
France instigated the chaos that Libya is experiencing today, and is the primary source of instability in the North African country which before western intervention was relatively stable and prosperous.
In 2011, France convinced its NATO allies to intervene in Libya and help in the overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi.
It was the beginning of a destructive inferno for Libyans and the surrounding countries.
Today, terrorism, slavery, and human trafficking networks are entrenched there and in the region.
Even Jean-Pierre Chevènement, France’s former minister of interior and defense, has admitted: “We destroyed Libya.”
“Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya had many flaws but it exercised control over its borders,” said Chevènement.
The strife in Libya has destabilized the country and helped feed the growth of extremist groups.
But has France learned any lessons from its disastrous and destructive experience in Libya and would it repeat the same mistake in Mali?
According to Choguel Kokalla Maïga, “we are having a bad war. If we remove foreign influences, which have other agendas, we, Africans, can understand each other. The destiny of Africa is being played out in Mali.”
To rehabilitate the country and have a stable state “we must give ourselves time to organize a responsible transition.”
Dr. Mustafa Mheta is Senior researcher/Head of Africa Desk at the Media Review Network, Johannesburg, South Africa and Dean, School of Languages at Somali National University (SNU) Mogadishu