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Mali will ‘not stand idly by’ if military intervention in Niger

By AFP
24 September 2023   |   8:16 am
Mali "will not stand idly by" if foreign governments intervene in neighouring Niger, Bamako's top diplomat warned the United Nations on Saturday, after both countries' juntas joined a mutual defense pact.

Passengers arrive at the Diori Hamani International airport in Niamey on September 22, 2023. (Photo by AFP)

Mali “will not stand idly by” if foreign governments intervene in neighouring Niger, Bamako’s top diplomat warned the United Nations on Saturday, after both countries’ juntas joined a mutual defense pact.

Rebel elite soldiers overthrew Niger’s president Mohamed Bazoum on July 26 and have since detained him at home with his family.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS has threatened the coup leaders with military intervention if diplomatic pressure to reinstate the democratically elected Bazoum fails.

A week ago, the military leaders of Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso — all of whom came to power in coups since 2020 — signed a defense pact that provides for mutual assistance in the face of attack.

“Mali remains strongly opposed to any military intervention by ECOWAS,” said Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, representing the Malian junta at the UN General Assembly.

“Any invasion of this country constitutes a direct threat to the peace and security of Mali, but also to the peace and security of the region, and will necessarily have serious consequences. We will not stand idly by,” he said.

The Mali junta has made sovereignty a priority, ending its cooperation with France and its allies in fighting jihadism, and turned militarily and politically towards Russia.

At the General Assembly, Diop repeated his criticism of Paris and its “neo-colonial domination,” and also made “special mention” of Russia’s “active solidarity and reliable commitment both bilaterally and multilaterally.”

Bamako has also pushed out UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA, which is due to complete its expedited withdrawal by the end of the year.

“The government of the Republic of Mali has no intention of extending this deadline,” the minister said.

Instability in the Sahel has heightened international worries over the impoverished region, which faces growing jihadist insurgencies linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.

Since 2012, Mali has been faced with the spread of jihadism and a security, humanitarian and political crisis.

Hostilities have resumed in the north of the country, coinciding with the ongoing withdrawal of MINUSMA.

“The government reassures the Malian people and the international community that all measures have been taken to ensure the continuity of state services after the departure of the MINUSMA,” Diop said.

“The government of the Republic of Mali is more determined than ever to exercise its sovereignty and assert its authority throughout the national territory.”