In an exclusive interview with FRANCE 24 and its sister radio station Radio France Internationale (RFI), Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga said that since 2012, French authorities have tried to divide his country by fueling autonomy claims in the north. Maiga said it is clear Paris has never deemed the ruling junta government as legitimate, and claims it was “preparing a plan” to overthrow it.
In the interview, Maiga insisted Bamako had "never requested" France to withdraw its anti-jihadist Barkhane operations from Mali, but that it was a decision that France had taken on its own. "On the grounds that Mali is preparing to discuss with the terrorists," he said, pointing to a June 3, 2021, statement in which France announced it was suspending its joint military operations with Malian forces. At the time, France said it was awaiting guarantees that the transitional government would hand over the power to civilian rule in the February, 2022, elections. The junta has since postponed the elections, however.
Since France started withdrawing its troops, Maiga said the Malian army had “reorganised” itself and that the French soldiers had now been replaced by domestic troops.
Asked whether Mali has enlisted support from Russian Wagner mercenaries, Maiga said his country is working "with Russian cooperators", under a contract signed with Moscow. "The word Wagner, it's the French who say that. We don't know any Wagner," he said.
Maiga also said his country has achieved many victories against the jihadists: "We’ve aimed at the heart of terrorism to destroy their bases, and we’re gaining ground."
Watch the full interview in the video player above.