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Hard times for the French in Mali

Following the massacre of around 160 villagers last month in the village of Ogossou-Peulh, located in Mali’s central Mopti region, thousands of Malians rallied in the capital Bamako in April 5th, 2019 to protest the failure of the government and international peacekeepers to stem rising ethnic and jihadist violence.

During the march that was organized by the High Islamic Council of Mali, people were questioning government inaction towards escalating ethnic violence in the country, holding signs reading IBK get out” and “Soumeylou get out”.

Moreover, behind the hostility toward IBK (Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta) – the current president of Mali – and his prime minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, there is also the hostility toward the French presence in the country and, to a lesser extent, toward MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.

According to Olivier Dubois, a journalist based in Mali, “there were several anti-French signs and slogans during the demonstrations“. Imam Mahmoud Dicko, one of the leaders of the demonstrations, called on IBK to stop applying French politics in Mali. The journalist adds that more and more Malians adhere to the ideas of the Movement “On a tout compris – Waati Sera” (We understood everything-Waati Sera).  According to this movement, the Malian government supports the prolongation of the French colonial regime.

Six years after French forces intervened to halt a jihadist advance from Mali’s desert north, the violence has spread across the Sahel and reached neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger. The Malians who were grateful to France after the liberation of the north of the country from the hands of jihadists have largely changed their minds with the deterioration of the security climate.

Despite the presence of the French forces and the MINUSMA, the security situation in Mali has never been so degraded. “547 fatalities in attacks on civilians were documented in the last five months, a more than fourfold increase on the same period a year earlier”, reports ACLED.

People in central Mali believe that the forces present on the ground (those of the state and the international forces) have the duty to protect them more effectively. “If you don’t help, you should leave!“, say the protesters.

Let’s not forget that since August 1st, 2014 around 4,500 French personnel are deployed within the framework of a joint operation with the G5 Sahel joint counter-terrorism force called ‘operation Barkhane‘.  For its part, MINUSMA, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali, was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of 25 April 2013 to support political processes in this country and carry out a number of security-related tasks. It deploys 13,010 military personnel, 1,767 police personnel, and 1,180 civilians.

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