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Τρίτη, 19 Οκτωβρίου, 2021
ΑρχικήEnglish EditionThe situation in Mali: What is France’s role in the region?

The situation in Mali: What is France’s role in the region?

By Anna Nguyen,

The African continent has caught the attention once again, with the two coup d’états in Mali, that have taken place this year. Africa and crises are two words that are strongly correlated as the African states have always been in turmoil. Despite the end of the colonial period, when independent states rose, the influence of the colonialist is still perceivable. And this is the case of France in Mali.

Mali is a landlocked country that once was under French control and gained its independence in 1960. Unfortunately, due to the tensions, Mali never had the chance to develop as it has to fight against the crises whether that be droughts or rebellions. It is believed that if a country is unstable, financially and politically, it is easier for conflicts to happen and makes it more prone to being influenced by others. France’s involvement became more apparent when the then President Francois Hollande, decided to militarily intervene. As Mali was its colony, France felt obligated to protect it especially after the request of the Malian government. Eventually, France helped Mali to regain some of its territory but the Islamists are still there.

However, the second coup that took place and the fact that its leader Colonel Assimi Goita named himself as the President of Mali, following the forced stepping down of the President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, displeased the French President. This move by Goita is “unacceptable” for the French as it is a “coup inside a coup”. Furthermore, President Macron is threatening with the withdrawal of the French troops from the African continent as well as possible sanctions from the EU. Macron is a President that from his first day in office promised to fight against Islamic terrorist groups and radicalization. Mali, according to Macron, is a country that seems to support radical Islamism under President Bah Ndaw and he had warned him of this. Thus, after the recent events, Macron is willing to withdraw his five thousand troops if there is no change in the Malian policy and no democratic legitimacy is followed.

French Troops in Mali. (Source: French Ministry of Defence)

France for almost a decade has been sending troops not only to Mali but to Niger, Chad, Burkina Faso and Mauritania as part of the Operation Barkhane in order to tackle Islamist militants. The Sahel region which consists of the aforementioned countries, is a region in turmoil for almost a decade resulting in a crucial number of refugees that is still rising. Many of them fled their countries to find a better life for them and their families, others are living with fear and uncertainty for what tomorrow will bring to them; all of these, in the name of some personal interests. The Sahel region is becoming an area that more and more Islamic terrorist groups are active, taking the advantage of the instabilities within the countries.

That is why France has kept its troops there for so long. However, it seems that there is no progress in tackling those groups, probably because there is no backup from France’s European allies. That is a dilemma, that the French President has to decide; withdraw the troops and risk the jihadists strengthening or keep the troops in countries that democratic values are not followed. One is certain; whatever the French President decides will have a crucial impact on the African continent.

  • Baig, R., The Interests Behind France’s Intervention in Mali, Deutsche Welle, Available here
  • BBC News, Mali’s Coup Leader Assimi Goita Declares Himself President, Available here
  • Euronews, Macron Warns France Could Withdraw Troops from Mali Following Coup, Available here
  • Skretteberg, R., Sahel, Norwegian Refugee Council, Available here


Anna Nguyen
She is currently a MSc Student in International Politics in KU Leuven, after graduating from the Department of International and European Studies in the University of Piraeus. Her main academic interests are international and economic affairs between states. She is Vietnamese but born and raised in Athens, Greece. She has also participated in numerous simulations of the UN, european and regional institutions. Lastly she speaks greek, vietnamese and english, whilst she is learning french and chinese and enjoys travelling and sports.