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3 Jun, 2021 20:46

France suspends joint military operations with Mali in bid to force ruling junta to transfer power back to civilian leaders

France suspends joint military operations with Mali in bid to force ruling junta to transfer power back to civilian leaders

France has halted its joint military operations with Mali’s armed forces, the defense ministry has announced, as it seeks to push the Malian military to cede power back to the democratically-elected government.

The West African country was thrown into its second military coup in nine months last week when interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were detained over their alleged failures to lead Mali into a new government.

The pair were reportedly taken to an army base outside the capital Bamako before being released after soldiers said they had resigned while detained.

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 Former vice president Colonel Assimi Goita – who led the August coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita – was unofficially sworn in as president on Friday.

“France, after informing its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend, as a precaution and temporarily, joint military operations with the Malian forces, as well as national advisory missions that benefit them,” the French Ministry of Armed Forces said in a statement on Thursday.

The ministry said its statement reflected the demands set by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU) for Malian authorities to clarify how the political transition will take place.

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On Tuesday, the AU group of nations revoked Mali’s membership of the bloc and threatened the country with sanctions unless order was restored. Announcing the move, the AU’s Peace and Security Council said in a statement it called on the military to “urgently and unconditionally return to the barracks, and to refrain from further interference in the political processes in Mali.”

The union’s move came after Mali was suspended from ECOWAS on Sunday.

President Emmanuel Macron previously threatened to withdraw the 5,100 troops France has stationed in Mali if the coup results in an increase in Islamist militancy.

Goita’s transitional administration has pledged to hold Mali’s elections, planned for 2022.

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