Mali’s Coup Within a Coup: Macron Threatens to Pull French Troops Out if Radicals Take Power

Written by | Wednesday, June 2nd, 2021

“Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never,” French President Emmanuel Macron warned on Sunday (30 May), referring to the rise of armed groups in the country. “There is this temptation today in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I will withdraw,” he said following what was a second coup in only nine months in Bamako. Mali is at the heart of France’s anti-jihadist Sahel operation called Operation Barkhane, which involves 5,100 troops and spans five countries in the region – Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger. The mission was launched after France under former President François Hollande intervened in Mali in 2013 to help drive back fighters who had overrun parts of the West African country.
France and the European Union denounced an “unacceptable coup d’etat” after Mali’s interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were detained and stripped of their powers last week. The French president added that he had given a message to West African leaders that they could not back a country “where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition”. Macron has clearly been frustrated about a lack of commitment from most other European countries to fight the multiple militant Islamist groups in the region that he considers a threat to Europe, both in terms of possible jihadist attacks on the continent and illegal migration. But Macron is stuck between a rock and a hard place, as he faces a dilemma here: although Macron has been – so far unsuccessfully – demanding an end to military rule in both Mali and Chad, fearing the political chaos and uncertainty would lead to an increase in radical Islam, he is probably aware that his threats of withdrawing French troups are not credible. This is because although French forces and their allies have failed to defeat the jihadists, who are becoming increasingly active in the Sahel and neighbouring regions, Macron fears that if France leaves, Islamist militancy will become even more rampant.
Meanwhile, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), meeting in a regional summit on Sunday (30 May), suspended Mali from the bloc’s institutions in response to the latest coup by the Malian military. “The suspension from ECOWAS takes immediate effect until the deadline of the end of February 2022 when they are supposed to hand over to a democratically elected government,” Ghana’s Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told reporters. “One of the decisions of the heads of state is that they should ensure that in the next few days a civilian prime minister is put in place to form the next government,” Botchwey added. The leaders from the region also stressed the community’s “commitment to a peaceful transition” while also warning of the “grave consequences” the political turmoil could have.

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