As the heads of state of West African countries prepare to decide on Sunday what to do with the Malian crisis, French President Emmanuel Macron says France would withdraw its troops if Mali went “in the sense” of radical Islamism.
Mr. Macron was speaking in an interview with JDD broadcast on Sunday.
Comments that come after the arrest of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last Monday, followed by their “resignation” in what amounts to a second coup in nine months.
Since then, Colonel Assimi Goïta, head of the junta who had already ousted then forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to resign in August 2020, has risen to the helm of the Malian state.
The French head of state also says he has “passed the message” to the leaders of West Africa that he “would not remain alongside a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition”.
More than 5,000 French soldiers on site
France, with about 5,100 men within Barkhane, supports Mali, which has been facing a jihadist push from the North since 2012, having plunged the country into a security crisis before spreading to the center of the country. But Paris, like the EU, denounced Tuesday an “unacceptable coup”.
“To Malian President Bah N’Daw, who was very rigorous about the seal between power and jihadists, I said: ‘Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there? Never in life!’ Today there is this temptation in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I would withdraw “, warned the French president, in an interview with the JDD during a trip to Rwanda and South Africa.
At the top of the G5 Sahel in Pau (southwest of France) in January, “I prepared a way out. I stayed at the request of the States, because I thought that the exit was a point of destabilization. But the question arises, and we do not intend to stay there forever – low”, he said.