Mali gave the French ambassador 72 hours notice to leave the country after “hostile and outrageous” comments by former colonial power France about its transitional government, amid mounting tensions between the west African country and its international partners.
The Malian government summoned Joel Meyer, on Monday and said he had 72 hours to leave the country, according to a Malian government statement.
Tensions have been mounting in recent weeks as Mali’s interim president, Col Assimi Goita, has delayed elections until 2026, solidified his control and showed reluctance to uphold international agreements.
French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said last week that Mali’s leadership was “illegitimate and takes irresponsible measures”.
“The Malian government vigorously condemns and rejects these remarks, which are contrary to the development of friendly relations between nations,” a statement read over state television said.
A French diplomat said the French government took note of Mali’s decision, and reiterated France’s commitment to the stabilisation and development of the Sahel region, without elaborating.
This latest episode in the diplomatic crisis between Mali and its foreign partners comes days after the Malian government ordered Danish soldiers deployed in the French-led Takuba military operation to leave. The representative for the Economic Community of West African States was also expelled from the country earlier this month after sanctions were imposed on Mali.
The action puts into question a French-led anti-terrorist military operation present in Mali at the request of Malian leaders.
France has had troops in Mali since 2013, when it intervened to drive back armed groups who were advancing on the capital. The fighters have since regrouped and are waging an increasingly bloody armed uprising across the Sahel region.
Relations between Mali and its former coloniser deteriorated this month when the military government went back on an agreement to organise elections in February and proposed holding power until 2025.
The west African government last week officially cut ties with France, abandoned French as official language before it ordered the army to leave.