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‘We will not stand idly by’: Mali warns against Nato meddling in Niger

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Picture: UN – Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop speaks at the UN General Assembly (UNGA). Mali and Burkina Faso reiterated their rejection of a military intervention against Niger at the UNGA, recalling the devastating 2011 Nato-led war on Libya and its role in fuelling violence in the Sahel.

By Peoples Dispatch

France’s ambassador to Niger, Sylvain Itté, left Niamey early on September 27, three days after Paris announced that it would also withdraw its 1,500 troops from the West African country by the end of the year.

Niger has joined its regional neighbours, Mali and Burkina Faso, in expelling French troops from its soil. The three countries have since forged a pact for collective defence and mutual cooperation, known as the Alliance of Sahel States (AES), amid rising attacks by armed groups in the region.

The AES was formed just days before the 78th session of the United National General Assembly.

Niger’s envoy was not granted the necessary credentials to attend the meeting. A spokesperson for the military leaders condemned the move stating, “With the complicity of France and two-French speaking heads of Ecowas, the secretary general of the United Nations went astray in the exercise of his mission by obstructing the full participation of Niger in the work of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly.”

The meeting nevertheless saw strong statements by Mali and Burkina Faso regarding the situation in Niger.

“As you will recall, in 2011, despite the firm opposition and warnings of African leaders, the UN Security Council unfortunately decided to authorise a Nato military intervention in Libya, whose consequences have permanently destabilised this fraternal country as well as the entire region,” Abdoulaye Diop, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation of Mali, told the plenary.

This war “is the root of the spread of terrorism and violent extremism in the Sahel region …” “And so, in the name of the victims from 2011 to today, the tens of thousands of deaths, the millions of displaced people and refugees, we demand justice, we demand reparation. But, above all that, we demand that the international community assumes it’s responsibility and learns the full lessons from this hazardous military intervention.

“It is crucial to avoid repeating in Niger the mistakes made in Libya,” Diop said, reiterating Mali’s rejection of an Ecowas-led military intervention and its broader impact. “We will not stand idly by,” he declared.

This was also emphasised by Burkina Faso’s Minister of State, Bassolma Bazié, who called upon the people in the region and across Africa to mobilise “in brotherhood and solidarity in order to prevent the imperialists from setting fire to Niger like the case of Libya”.

Diop, in his address, also denounced the interference of “certain powers who continue to facilitate the criminal activities of terrorist armed groups” in the region. In August 2022, Mali had approached the UN Security Council accusing France of violating its airspace and providing arms to terrorist groups.

Diop echoed the allegations made by Niger in August, when it had accused France of releasing captured “terrorist elements” in the tri-border area shared by the AES members.

Paris’ actions in the Sahel also received sharp criticism in the French National Assembly on September 26. “With [the] coups in Niger and Gabon this summer, your neocolonial and imperialist policy in Africa has experienced one of the greatest setbacks. The fault of a policy geared to our economic interests, from uranium to oil,” said Jean-Paul Lecoq, a deputy from the French Communist Party (PCF).

“In the Sahel, you asked the military to do humanitarian work. You’ve asked the humanitarians to play politics, and the diplomats to act as a sounding board for the Elysee Palace and French multinationals … [The African people] want to achieve their second independence, that of economic and financial sovereignty. We must listen to them and close the French military bases in Africa and do away with the CFA franc.”

Meanwhile, Diop told the UNGA, “We denounce and reject the double standards that are exercised by certain powers in certain regional organisations, and even by certain international organisations, including the UN … Some of these organisations are used beyond any legal framework, they are being used as weapons against countries and populations.”

“[They] are therefore being transformed into organisations that perpetuate the colonialist and hegemonic order,” he added.

The Malian official also denounced sanctions and other coercive measures imposed on his own country and on Niger. Ecowas has imposed sweeping restrictions on Niamey since the July 26 coup, including border closures and the freezing of financial transactions.

“These organisations are founded on solidarity and fraternity and should not be used to punish one’s own brothers, one’s own people, prohibiting them from obtaining food and medications,” he added.

Earlier in his address, the minister had also noted that part of France’s “hostile acts” were its actions to delay and prevent the approval of Mali’s requests for financing at the sub-regional, regional, and international levels.

Mali and Burkina Faso also called for an overhaul of the existing international order.

Affirming Mali’s commitment to multilateralism, Diop called for the need for changes in existing economic, financial, and political global governance mechanisms to ensure fair and inclusive participation. He also welcomed the African Union’s membership of the G20 as well as the formation of the BRICS alliance, adding that the bloc’s New Development Bank offered an alternative tailored to the development needs of the Global South.

This article was first published on Peoples Dispatch