Saturday, February 5, 2022

Thousands in Mali Celebrate Expulsion of French Ambassador | Farsnews Agency

(FNA)- Thousands of anti-French demonstrators poured into the street of the Malian capital, Bamako, to cheer at the expulsion of the French ambassador.

The celebrations on Friday, where people waved Russian flags and burned cardboard cut-outs of French President Emmanuel Macron, came as tensions between the West African country and its former colonial power have been steadily soaring, Al-Jazeera reported.

“There are thousands and thousands and thousands of Malians today who say ‘No’ to France. So, what the European Union and France need to do is respect the Malian authorities,” Moulaye Keita, member of the country’s National Transition Council, told reporters.

“They need to understand that the authorities in charge today are the only ones who can speak for our country,” Keita added.

The standoff comes as Western powers say Russian mercenaries working for the controversial Wagner group have been deployed in Mali, a country at the heart of a long-running conflict in the Sahel region, where thousands of French troops are deployed to fight armed groups.

Relations between the two countries have been further deteriorating after the military, which seized power in August 2020, and then again in May, retracted the promise to hold elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.

The standoff escalated last week when the French diplomat was given 72 hours to leave the country. The EU snapped back on Friday imposing sanctions on five senior members of the country’s transitional government, including on Interim Prime Minister Choguel Maiga.

“The EU sanctions are ratcheting up the pressure, but simply follow what the Africans have done themselves,” Terence McCulley, former US ambassador to Mali, told Al-Jazeera, adding, “I think dialogue is still an option and still the preferred option with both ECOWAS and the international community,” he said.

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