Mali urges France to ‘restrain itself’ after Macron’s ‘unfriendly, derogatory remarks’

Mali’s Foreign Ministry has called on France to “restrain itself”, following what was described as “unfriendly and derogatory remarks” by French President Emmanuel Macron.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Ministry said it had summoned the French Ambassador to Mali after Macron’s remarks on the “institutions” of the West African nation, reports Xinhua news agency.

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop expressed “indignation and disapproval” over and protested against “these regrettable remarks” that are likely to “harm the development of friendly relations between nations”, the statement said.

The protest came after Macron’s remarks on Mali on September 30, made on the sidelines of the “Africa 2020” event at the Elysee Palace.

“The legitimacy of the current government is undemocratic. Yesterday we presided over the national tribute to Sergeant Maxime Blasco (a French soldier killed in Mali on September 24) and today he is buried among his own. What the Malian prime minister said is unacceptable. This is a disgrace. And it dishonours what is not even a government,” Macron was reported to be saying.

In the statement on Tuesday, the Malian government called on the French authorities to “restrain themselves” by avoiding “value judgments” and to “concentrate on the essential,” in particular the “fight against terrorism in the Sahel”.

The Malian Foreign Minister, however, reiterated Mali’s readiness to “build with willing partners sincere and concerted relations, respecting the principle of non-interference in accordance with the legitimate aspirations of the Malian people”, the statement said.

In recent days, a verbal escalation between Bamako and Paris has been taking place since September 25, when Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga told the UN General Assembly that Macron’s “unilateral” announcement last June of the reorganisation of the French military presence in the Sahel represented “a kind of abandonment in flight”, saying this led Mali to open negotiations with other actors in order to diversify its partners in the fight against terrorism.

The remarks by Maiga prompted strong condemnation from Paris.

Since 2012, Mali, buffeted by political, economic difficulties and security challenges, has witnessed the death of thousands and displacement of hundreds and thousands others as a result of separatist insurrections, jihadi incursions and inter-communal violence, despite the presence of UN, French and European forces.