by Ambra Visentin

France and Mali had a new confrontation at the UN on Tuesday evening. During a Security Council session on Mali’s security crisis, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop reiterated his ‘serious’ accusations of ‘aggression and espionage’ against Paris and claimed the right to defend itself. In addition to the violation of its airspace, the diplomatic chief accused his former ally of delivering weapons to jihadist groups for the purpose of internal destabilisation. Nicolas de Rivière, France’s permanent representative to the UN, reacted by denying the accusations and calling them ‘false and slanderous’. Diop called for a special session of the Security Council to ‘bring to light the evidence of France’s hypocrisy, acts of espionage and destabilisation measures’.

A few weeks ago, the appearance of the Malian Prime Minister, Abdoulaye Maïga, at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly attracted much attention. In an aggressive tone, he accused France of ‘neo-colonial policies’ and called the French government a ‘junta’. However, he called cooperation with Russia ‘exemplary and fruitful’.

Mali has been under terrorist threat since 2012 and has seen two military coups since 2020. The military government that came to power in August 2020 had strong tensions with France, which sent troops to its former colony in what many saw as an attempt to further entrench itself in the country. Since then, relations with France, which had supported the former overthrown government in the fight against terrorism, have steadily deteriorated. France has since withdrawn its troops from Mali and transferred most of them to Niger.

The situation in the country continues to deteriorate. Russian soldiers and mercenaries from the Wagner group support the national army, but only selectively in certain areas. Some EU countries claim to have withdrawn their military presence from Mali because of criticism of Mali’s relations with the Russian Federation. But the reality, Diop claimed, was that Mali had decided to expel them.

The minister also denied the allegations of human rights violations by the Malian army, denounced by the UN and other groups, calling the accusations ‘unfounded’ and warning against the ‘instrumentalisation’ of human rights issues, Diop emphasised that the withdrawal of foreign troops would not cause a security vacuum.

El-Ghassim Wane, head of the UN mission in Mali (Minusma) asked the Security Council on Tuesday (18 October) for the necessary means to ensure its mandate in a country where the security situation remains “unstable” in several regions and its actions are subject to “restrictions”. “The security situation remains unstable in central Mali and in the Mali-Burkina Faso-Niger cross-border area,” he added.


©UN Photo/Marco Dormino