Malian authorities cancel defense agreements with France
Mali’s ruling junta announced Monday night that it was breaking off defense agreements with France and its European partners, a further sign of deteriorating relations between Bamako and its former allies in the fight against jihadists.
Making good on a threat that has been waved for months, the military-dominated authorities who came to power by force in August 2020 announced that they were “denouncing” the Status of Force Agreements (SOFA) that set the legal framework for the presence in Mali of the French Barkhane and European Takuba forces, as well as the defense cooperation treaty signed in 2014 between Mali and France.
In a statement read on national television, government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga cited “flagrant violations” of national sovereignty by France, which has been militarily engaged in the country since 2013.
He cited France’s “unilateral attitude” when it suspended joint operations between French and Malian forces in June 2021, the announcement in February 2022, “again without any consultation with the Malian side,” of the withdrawal of Barkhane and Takuba forces, and the “multiple violations” of airspace by French aircraft despite the establishment by the authorities of a no-fly zone over a large part of the territory.
“In view of these serious shortcomings as well as the flagrant attacks on Mali’s national sovereignty, the government of the Republic of Mali decides to denounce the defense cooperation treaty of July 16, 2014,” the statement said.
The Malian authorities notified the French authorities of this denunciation on Monday afternoon and it will take effect six months after this notification, the spokesman said.
On the other hand, it is with “immediate effect” that the Malian authorities denounce the Sofa of March 2013 framing the engagement of the French force Serval, then Barkhane, as well as the additional protocol of March 2020 applying to the European detachments of Takuba, the grouping of European special units initiated by France, he said.
Paris has not so far responded to the announcement. The question that arises is whether the cancellation of the SOFA will have repercussions on the ongoing withdrawal of Barkhane, announced in February as the culmination of months of escalating tensions between France and Malian authorities.
Barkhane forces’ withdrawal, a large and dangerous operation, is supposed to take four to six months.