Are former French colonies independent or simply mere pawns in a big political game? World media has been flooded with reports concerning the summoning of the French ambassador by BAMAKO over comments that the French president made during a summit. The meeting allowed the world to peer into the deepening conflict between the African country and its French military partner.
The growing tensions between the nations have seen a nasty trade of scathing attacks and comments. France which has had a fleet of 5000 troops in the western African country has communicated that it will scale down its troops to 2500, a move that saw MALI accusing the French of abandoning it at the eleventh hour of need.
The comments drew a retaliatory exchange from the French president who challenged the junta's legitimacy citing the fact that it had initiated 2 coups in a very short period.
The build-up to that conflict has further been uncovered in the recent events that have been unraveled from the sub-Saharan country. It has emerged that Mali reportedly had plans to recruit Russian mercenaries in its increased bid to contain the Islamic insurgent scourge terrorizing its nation. The French government expressed its dissatisfaction over this move.
The Malian foreign affairs ministry announced that the summon of the French ambassador was precisely for the reason to communicate the country's indignation at the comments concerning the junta's legitimacy by the French president.
Violence in the African country has not stopped intensifying despite the presence of thousands of foreign troops on the ground including western troops and the UN. The situation has provoked Mali authorities to look for better alternatives in dealing with the crisis, one of which includes recruiting a Russian mercenary outfit, the Russian Warner Group.
Reuters on 5 October this year reported that diplomatic and security forces had told the news organization that Mali was close to recruiting the Russian Wagner Group and its French partner has vowed to thwart and shoot down any such attempt.
French intervention in Mali was necessitated in the 2013 seizure of the northern part of the country the previous year. The French continued deploying troops in the Sahel region to combat the jihadists insurgents. Regardless of this military-related assistance, violence has not waned down. It has increased spilling into central Mali and its neighbors Burkina Faso and Niger. The situation has created massive headaches for humanitarian organizations as the violence has resulted in forced displacements, poverty, death, and sicknesses. The people of Mali have often taken to the streets protesting French intervention in the country saying the troops made no substantial or material difference to the fight.
It is essential to note that whilst strategic partnerships with foreign nations are needed in Africa, they cannot come at the price of freedom and independence. The relationship between the French and most of its former colonies remains precarious and rigged against the former colonies.
Moreover, the event raises questions to fundamental questions if there is indeed equality between the parties on the negotiating table. African countries, like Mali, find themselves in a very precarious situation in which it has to fight insurgents as well as poverty and can only do with the aid of some foreign power with technical expertise in dealing with the crisis. More importantly, how does Mali reconcile its national interest with also ensuring that it maintains cordial relations with its allies?