Mali’s prime minister accused, on Monday, France of seeking to divide the West African country during its military mission there, in the latest escalation in relations between Paris and Bamako.
In a 45-minute speech to the diplomats assembled at his request, Shogoel Kokala Maiga denounced France, the former colonial power and outspoken critic of the military regime he appointed.
But Maiga stopped short of calling for the departure of the French-led anti-jihadist force in Mali.
He acknowledged that the French military intervention in 2013 had halted the jihadist insurgency that had already taken control of the north of the country and threatened the south.
But he argued that the French operation later turned into a de facto partition of the country.
Maiga said jihadists have been allowed to seek refuge in part of Mali’s territory, regroup and return by force as of 2014.
He added, comparing the Allied liberation of France at the end of World War II: “When the French saw that (the American presence) was no longer necessary, they asked the Americans to leave.
“Did the Americans begin to insult the French?”
France has already said it is studying the future of the anti-jihadist force – in consultation with its European Union partners – after Mali expelled its ambassador last week.
Tensions rose after French President Emmanuel Macron criticized the junta’s failure to stick to a timetable for a return to civilian rule.
Mali escalated its condemnation of France after the Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced sanctions against the military regime in Mali on January 9.
Bamako has accused Paris of manipulating the ECOWAS in its tough stance against Bamako, a topic to which Maiga returned in a speech on Monday.
The goal, he said, was to present Mali as a pariah.
“We cannot turn into consequences,” he added. “You can’t enslave the country. It’s over,” he said, referring to the country’s past as a colony of France.