France Has Its Own Interests in Sahel, Doesn't Care About Malians' Security, Historian Says
15:05 GMT 25.11.2022 (Updated: 16:14 GMT 25.11.2022)
In August, France completed the pullout of its forces that were on a mission in Mali as part of Operation Barkhane. In November, the UK and Germany announced the end of their troops' participation in MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in the African state.
The end of France's Operation Barkhane in Mali, as well as recent announcements by the UK and Germany that they will withdraw their forces from the country, which are part of MINUSMA, the UN peacekeeping mission in the West African state, come against the backdrop of anti-UN and anti-French protests
in the Sahel region, and in Mali in particular.
The latter signals that the country's population understands that France is pursuing its own agenda, disregarding Malian interests, historian Dr. Vasily Filippov, lead researcher at the Centre for Tropical African Studies at the Institute for African Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, tells Sputnik.
"[The French] plundered and continue to plunder the countries of the Sahel: uranium, gold, diamonds. People are gradually realizing that this is not help for Malians, but just robbery. And that is why it is said more and more often that France is kind of a collective 'exploiter' that robs Africans and West African countries," the expert says.
According to Dr. Filippov, France has its "own interests" in the region, largely connected to the protection of Sahel uranium mines that supply fuel for nuclear power plants in Europe. The historian acknowledges that during the early stages of Operation Barkhane (launched in 2014), French forces successfully stopped the offensive by Tuareg separatists. At the same time, he points out that the protection of Sahel's uranium deposits was of importance to France.
"Therefore, France did not think at all about the security of the Malians,” the Russian academic says.
Operation Barkhane was connected to several controversies. In March, a UN probe found
that a French airstrike had led to death of 19 civilians, while Paris claimed that only terrorists had been targeted.
On August 15, the day the last French troops pulled out from Mali, the African country's foreign minister, Abdoulaye Diop, accused
Paris of invading Malian airspace, using drones and piloted aircraft "to collect intelligence for the benefit of terrorist groups operating in the Sahel."
Recently, French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu commented on the country's withdrawal from Mali, noting
that it is "impossible" for the modern French forces "to take part in large-scale operations."
Following the formal ending of Operation Barkhane on November 9, the United Kingdom
announced plans to withdraw their troops from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
Dr. Filippov considers MINUSMA "lax" and "contradictory," noting that the mission "did not achieve any major victories." He underlines that it is "no wonder that Germany and other countries" decided to pull out, adding that "no-one will notice" the withdrawal of German troops. According to the researcher, they were unable to fight effectively in Malian conditions, with the heat not allowing tanks to start, sandstorms rendering the use of helicopters dangerous, and separatists and Islamists hard to confront due to being mobile – in contrast to German forces.
In the expert's opinion, Germany has "no particular interest there" and participated in the mission only at the request of France.
"[President Macron] is well aware that neither the military resources nor the financial resources of France allow it to effectively fight the Islamists. The French fought there, [...] and yet there is still bloodshed there..." the researcher says.
21 November 2022, 16:28 GMT
Dr. Filippov points out that after it became obvious to Malians that the Western intervention could not guarantee stability in the country, they started turning to Russia for help. The expert believes Russia could have "very effective cooperation" with Mali – as well as with other Sahel countries, such as Burkina Faso. He notes that "portraits of Putin and Russian flags" can be seen at protests in Bamako, with the academic also underlining that Russia and Mali "have been actively interacting and forming very friendly relations" since the 1960s.
"As for the country that can help Mali ensure security – it is clearly Russia. This is a partner you can count on when it comes to safety," Dr. Filippov said.