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Mali/France relations hit new low, Bamako says Paris violating its airspace, finally bans French media

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The bilateral relationship between Mali and France has continued to suffer as French troops have started leaving Mali.

In the latest escalation of tensions between them, Mali’s military rulers have accused the French army of repeatedly violating controlled airspace over the country’s centre and north to “spy” on its forces.

Until recently, the relationship between Mali and France seems smooth with French-led military intervention ousting jihadists who were taking control of northern Mali but the relations have deteriorated with Mali’s new military leaders, who seized power in a 2020 coup.

The junta in Mali on Tuesday said in a statement that over 50 breaches of the West African country’s airspace had been recorded since the start of the year, mainly by French-operated aircraft.

The government claimed in the statement that there was the “illegal” flying of a drone on April 20 over the northern military base of Gossi, a day after France handed the site back to Mali as part of its ongoing troop withdrawal.

Last week, the French military released footage that appears it claimed showed Russian mercenaries burying bodies near the Gossi base. The drone images are the direct cause of the recent accusations by Malian military.

Following the release of the footage, Bamako said French aircraft flew back and forth over a convoy of Malian troops heading to Gossi on April 21 but France has denied the accusation.

France said its army said the men in the drone video were Russian mercenaries accused of helping Mali’s military junta fight militants and summarily executing civilians in the process. A move that has been widely condemned by the United StatesUnited Nation, and the European Union.

“French forces are guilty of subversion in publishing fake mounted images in order to accuse the (Malian army) of killing civilians,” the government said in Tuesday’s statement.

Also on Wednesday, Mali’s High Communications Authority took its suspension of French affiliated media further as it announced the definitive suspension of French state-funded international news outlets RFI and France 24, a decision the France Medias Monde organization said it would contest.

Politics

Burkina Faso’s junta leader, Ibrahim Traore, assures France of relations amidst recent tension

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Amidst recent diplomatic tension between Burkina Faso and France, the military leader of the West African country, Ibrahim Traoré has claimed that recent incidences do not suggest the end of relations with France.

Burkina Faso had expelled French ambassadors and expelled French troops earlier in the year. French President, Emmanuel Macron had sought clarifications from military President Ibrahim Traore about reported demands for the departure of French troops from the country.

He said: “We’ve heard everywhere in the press that Wagner is in Ouagadougou. That’s also how we heard about it. I’ve asked some people who say, ‘Oh really? Where are they?’

“We’ve since heard that they’re even in a hotel somewhere, we’re surprised to hear about that.”

“There’s a general state of mind whereby if you deal with Wagner, everyone runs away from you, so it’s something which has been created in order that everyone shuns us – well congratulations, good job.”

The wave of anti-French agitations in the West African sub-region has continued in recent times. Notably French relations with Burkina Faso’s neighbour, Mali who is also caught up in a serious security crisis.

“The French embassy is here,” He said. “French nationals are here, just as ours is there, so diplomatically nothing has changed.

“This is about an agreement over military presence, and as they have said, our sovereignty is up to us, so that’s what we are expressing through our denunciation of this agreement. So there is no breaking off of diplomatic relations, or hatred of any particular country.”

France’s position in Africa has been a subject of discussion lately amidst recent anti-French agitations across the continent.

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Politics

Tunisian union, UGTT chief, Noureddine Taboubi accuses President Saied of intimidation

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As part of the fallouts of the recently conducted parliamentary elections in Tunisia, its trade union, UGTT accused President Kais Saied of targeting it as a distraction from record-low election turnout.

The powerful union also accused president Saied of overseeing a “total failure” of economic policies.

The UGTT chief, Noureddine Taboubi at a meeting held at Gammarth to discuss the arrest of the union’s senior official Anis Kaabi earlier in the week said “the president is trying to divert attention from the record low election turnout in the first and second round of legislative elections and the utter failure of his economic and social decisions.”

Mr. Taboubi added: “Why is the UGTT a target?  Because [the authorities] want to pass the painful reforms they are always discussing.

“In order to pass these painful reforms, they need to distract the public with trivia by saying that the reason for this situation is the UGTT.”

The election, which was a second round of the Tunisian parliamentary polls held last Sunday with reports that nearly 90% of the electorate did not vote, making it the highest level of abstention since the 2011 revolution that toppled dictator Ben Ali and marked the advent of democracy in the country.

Voter turnout for the first round of the parliamentary elections in December was only 11%, prompting widespread ridicule among Saied’s opponents and new demands by the powerful labour union that he changes tack.

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