French, British and German defense ministers on Friday insisted their troops would stay assigned to UN and French-led missions in Mali — despite a military coup last Tuesday.
Europe’s “engagement” in the UN’s MINUSMA mission and France’s Operation Barkane since 2012-2013 was “still necessary,” said the host of the tripartite talks, Germany’s Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer.
The anti-jihadist campaigns across the Sahel were “still necessary,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer, “because terrorism remains a great threat, including for us here.”
‘Far from over’
French Defense Minister Florence Parly said the Sahel’s “security challenge” also represented a threat for the “whole of Europe” to Africa’s north.
Britain’s Ben Wallace, referring to Mali’s coup, said “stability must be restored.”
The three ministers urged Malian soldiers who led this week’s coup to “return to constitutional order.” Kramp-Karrenbauer echoed German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s condemnation of the coup.
Mali’s CNPS junta is headed by Assimi Goita, According to a biography released the day after the coup, he attended elite military schools in Mali and rounded off his training in Gabon, Germany and the US.
Europe’s mission in Mali
Assigned to MINUSMA, begun in 2013, are 13,000 UN “blue helmets,” including currently some 900 German troops stationed mainly in Mali’s restive Gao desert region, where Goita led infantry units from 2002 to 2008.
Since 2018, Britain has had some 100 soldiers assigned to France’s 5,100-strong Operation Barkane, and has agreed to provide 250 British troops to MINUSMA starting this year.
In addition, the European Training Mission in Mali comprises 620 military instructors from 28 European countries, to train and equip Mali’s army and more recently troops of neighboring G5 Sahel nations, including Niger and Chad.
Thousands rally to celebrate coup
Meanwhile, thousands of opposition supporters gathered in capital Bamako’s Independence square on Friday to celebrate the ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
The supporters were part of the June 5 Movement, a loose coalition which had launched protests demanding Keita’s resignation.
While the military coup continued to draw international condemnation, people at the Bamako rally were seen cheering as the new junta praised the public for their support. Many were blowing vuvuzela horns, draped in the Malian national flag.
“We have come here to thank you, to thank the Malian public for its support. We merely completed the work that you began and we recognize ourselves in your fight,” the junta’s spokesman, Ismael Wague, said at the rally.