France will pull troops out of Mali if the country moves toward radical Islamism, President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche.
Macron told the newspaper during a trip to Africa that he had warned leaders in the west African nation that the French government will not stand by a country where there is no longer any democratic legitimacy or transition.
Mali is experiencing its second military coup in nine months. Its interim president, Bah N’Daw, resigned while in military detention this week after his deputy, Assimi Goita, seized power in what Macron denounced as a “coup within a coup” following the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August.
Mali is seen as key to international efforts to contain a mushrooming insurgency by Islamist militants in the Sahel region, where a 5,100-strong force has been deployed by France, the former colonial power.
“I told Malian President Bah N’Daw, who was very rigorous in keeping a wall between the jihadists and government: ‘Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers there. No way!’” Macron told the newspaper, according to an article published Sunday.
“Today, this temptation is present in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I’ll pull out,” the French president was quoted as saying. “I stayed at the request of the countries, because I thought that exiting would be a destabilizing factor. But the question is raised, and we’re not destined to stay there forever.”
The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, has called an extraordinary summit of regional leaders on Sunday and is insisting that Mali’s interim government should be led by a civilian.