The World Today for January 31, 2022

NEED TO KNOW

Easy Come, Easy Go

MALI

Leaders in Mali recently ordered Danish troops out of the country, saying they never received permission to operate there with a French-led counterterrorism force. Danish officials said they had a “clear invitation” to deploy to the West African country, while France and 14 other countries in the force issued a statement asking Malian leaders to change their minds.

There was more to the order than Mali’s explanation would suggest, however, Reuters explained. Recently, the European Union and the Economic Community of West African States slapped sanctions on Mali’s transitional government for failing to hold elections after two military coups.

Malian Colonel Assimi Goita ousted two of Mali’s presidents in 2020 and 2021. He had promised to hold elections in February but has since postponed the vote until 2026, saying terrorism and instability precludes a ballot, CNN reported.

The first ousted head of state, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, recently passed away at the age of 76. Malians initially viewed Keita as honest, the New York Times wrote, but allegations of corruption, nepotism and rigged elections marred his administration. When he fell from power, looters broke into his son’s mansion and photographed themselves swimming in his pool.

Meanwhile, the international sanctions have caused food shortages and inflation to spike. “I used to buy one kilogram of meat, now I can only afford half a kilo,” a shopper in a market in Bamako, the capital, told France 24. “Some people now buy fish instead of meat because it’s too expensive.”

Democracy is important no matter where it strives to grow. But Mali is a special case because the country is also “the epicenter of one of the world’s fastest-growing Islamist insurgencies,” wrote the Washington Post.

France had been devoting significant military resources to fight terrorism in Mali, sending soldiers to the country in 2013 to battle al Qaeda and raising troop levels to 5,100 last year. However, facing domestic pressure to end an overseas adventure in a country ruled by a junta, French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that he would reduce troops to 2,000 this year.

Meanwhile, the fighting goes on. For example, a recent mortar attack on a French army base killed a French soldier and injured an American soldier, Stars and Stripes noted.

As France and other Western countries draw down their presence, Russia is moving in, Al Jazeera added. Malian leaders said they were trainers. But others believe they might be among 1,000 Russian mercenaries who are part of the Wagner Group, a contractor that allegedly has ties to the Russian government.

In nature and in politics, vacuums tend to be filled.

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