Mali’s authorities have banned a protest in the capital, Bamako against the presence of the French anti-jihadist forces in the country on Wednesday.
The protest is not allowed because of the restrictions to slow down the spread of COVID-19, Bamako governor’s chief of staff Daniel Dembélé said.
The ban comes after French President Emmanuel Macron announced that France was preparing to reduce its military efforts in the Sahel.
Mr Macron said the arrival of special forces from other European countries would allow France to make changes.
This military presence regularly provokes expressions of animosity which have come out on social media and during several demonstrations in Bamako.
Mali has been struggling to quell a jihadist insurgency that first emerged in the country’s north in 2012, before spreading to the centre and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
France, Mali’s former colonial ruler, first intervened in the country in 2013 to help drive back jihadist forces advancing on Bamako.
It now has 5,100 troops deployed across Africa’s arid Sahel region, as part of its anti-jihadist force Barkhane.
Their role was placed in the spotlight earlier this month when several residents in the village of Bounti said about 20 people in a wedding party had been killed in a strike by a helicopter.
It occurred on January 3, they said, near where French forces said they carried out an airstrike on jihadists using a fighter jet
The transition remains dominated by the military, which affirms its commitment to military co-operation with France.
France’s military has insisted it struck jihadists, ruling out the possibility of any mistake.
Interim President Bah Ndaw thanked foreign forces in Mali during a military ceremony on Tuesday evening, for example, for “risking their lives for the liberation of our country”.
In France on Tuesday, President Emmanuel Macron announced an “adjustment” to French forces in the Sahel.
Many have interpreted his remarks as a sign that France is preparing to reduce its deployment in the region.
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