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Faith Nyasuguta 

Mali’s ruling military government has declared that it is breaking its defence accords with ex-colonial ruler France, decrying “flagrant violations” of its national sovereignty by the French troops based there.

The last development is the latest sign of declining relations between Mali and France.

According to authorities based in Bamako, they had informed Paris of the decision on Monday afternoon.

So far, France has not issued an official reaction to the public declaration.

“For some time now, the government of the Republic of Mali notes with regret a profound deterioration in military cooperation with France,” spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said via a televised statement.

The spokesman cited multiple instances of French forces having violated the nation’s airspace.

He made reference to the June 2021 move by France to end joint operations with Malian forces and mentioned another decision taken in February to pull French troops out of the West African state.

Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of Malian military junta, attends an Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) consultative meeting in Accra, Ghana, September 15, 2020 /Reuters/

So far, the agreements Mali has ended were those that set the framework for France’s intervention in Mali in 2014.

They were penned a year after France deployed a large force to help Mali’s army stop an offensive by armed groups there.

For some time, tensions between France and the military government in Mali, which seized power in August 2020, have been rising.

Since August 2020, France’s relationship with Mali has deteriorated as the government resisted international pressure to set a timetable for a swift return to democratic governance.

Paris has also objected to the government’s rapprochement with the Kremlin.

Mali’s President of the National Transitional Council Malick Diaw, right, addresses members of the council during a meeting to vote on a revised charter in Bamako on February 21 [Florent Vergnes /AFP/

Both France and the United States have accused mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked security firm Wagner of deploying and perpetuating human rights abuses in Mali, where the government claims the Russians are just military instructors helping to restore order.

Huge swaths of Mali lie beyond government control because of armed group activity, which began in 2012 before spreading three years later to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

The army seized power in the landlocked Sahel state following protests over the government’s handling of the war against armed groups.

The war led to thousands of military and civilian deaths and forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes.

French troops deployed to Operation Barkhane in the Sahel. /État-major des armées/

Initially, the military had vowed to restore civilian rule, but it failed to meet an earlier commitment to West African bloc ECOWAS to hold elections in February this year, prompting regional sanctions.

On Sunday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a swift return to civilian leadership in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, all currently ruled by military regimes.

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Faith Nyasuguta

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