Mali’s army-led government has urged French President Emmanuel Macron to abandon his “neo-colonial and patronising” attitude as relations between Paris and Bamako deteriorate.
France is reconfiguring its position in the Sahel after falling out with the junta in Mali, the centre of a bloody 10-year campaign against extremists in the region.
Mali underwent coups in August 2020 and May 2021, creating a political crisis that has coincided with the current security crisis.
France first intervened in Mali in 2013 to combat an insurgency that had emerged 12 months earlier. However, it revealed this year that it would withdraw its forces.
“The transitional government demands President Macron permanently abandon his neocolonial, paternalistic and patronising posture to understand that no one can love Mali better than Malians,” junta spokesman Col Abdoulaye Maiga said on public television on Sunday.
Col Maiga was responding to remarks made by Mr Macron last week during a three-day visit to Benin, Cameroon and Guinea-Bissau.
Referring to the situation in Mali, Mr Macron said West African nations had the responsibility to ensure Malians are able to express their sovereignty and “build a framework of stability” to allow the “effective fight against terrorist groups”.
Mr Macron also referred to a suspected deal between the Malian regime and Russian private security company Wagner, which was a crucial factor that pushed Paris to withdraw its 2,400 troops.
Bamako denies any deployment by the controversial Wagner group.
During his visit to Benin on Wednesday, Mr Macron branded Russia “one of the last imperial colonial powers”, due to its invasion of Ukraine.
Since 2021, Mali has been rocked by an insurgency by groups linked to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The violence that began in the north has spread to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.