BAMAKO, 20 January 2021 – Malian authorities have banned a protest calling for the withdrawal of French troops from the country, according to media reports.
Organizers said French troops who have been deployed for eight years in the country to fight jihadist militants have either failed or made a bad situation worse.
An estimated 5,100 French troops are working alongside Malian armed and security forces in the Sahelien northen parts of the country to counter jihadist militants.
The ban was put in place to prevent mass gatherings that could break COVID-19 safety and restriction measures, according to the chief of staff of the governor of Bamako, Daniel Dembele.
Several hundred people who tried to reach the starting point of the planned protest at Banako’s Independence Square were denied access by riot police.
Police used tear gas to disperse demonstrators who defied the ban.
French military presence in Mali is a thorny issue and protests against their presence are organized frequently.
Media reports on Wednesday pointed out that those calling on French troops to leave include members of Malo’s National Transitional Council, the legislative body that plays the role of a caretaker administration since the military coup of 18 August 2020.
The council’s job is to organize elections and return power to democratically elected officials at the end of their 18 months mandate.
A majority of council members is from the military whose members tend to be more supportive and appreciative of the military, logistical, intelligence and financial assistance provided by France, Mali’s former colonial power.
Only since the the last week of December 2020, five French soldiers hacve been killed in attacks using improvised explosive devices.
Two French soldiers were killed in the eastern Malian region of Menaka last January 3, only days after three of their colleagues had been killed in a similar attack in the same region.