Against the backdrop of Covid-19, Emmanuel Macron cancels a risky trip to Mali

At a time when Paris and Bamako exchange in public only by accusations and invectives interposed, Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Mali, scheduled for December 20 and 21, was a risky bet. It was canceled Friday, December 17, officially for health reasons related to the Covid-19 pandemic. The decision was formalized at the end of a health defense council and aims, according to the Elysee, to protect the armies, while the fifth wave of contamination frightens the experts.

Four months before the presidential election – April 10 and 24, 2022 -, the executive probably did not want the Head of State to appear in the middle of a large table to celebrate the traditional Christmas of the troops, when the French are called upon to limit the feasts. On December 6, the Prime Minister, Jean Castex, asked his fellow citizens to “Take it easy until the end of the year celebrations”, by avoiding “The big dinners”, “The starting pots” or “The racks”. Matignon also specifies that the Prime Minister has also given up his trip to Jordan, where he was to spend New Year’s Eve with the French troops engaged in the framework of Operation “Chammal”. And the Elysée to justify:

“We need to make the measures requested of the French consistent with our international agenda. It is hardly conceivable to move a hundred people and organize a big Christmas dinner with the troops in the current context. “

A level of tension rarely reached

Emmanuel Macron’s trip to Mali was to be articulated in two stages: a first, very political and possibly electric, in Bamako, where he was to meet the president of the transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta; and a second, more agreed, in Gao, with the soldiers on an external operation.

If, on the military level, Emmanuel Macron can consider himself satisfied to have started “Deep transformation” operation “Barkhane” with the handing over to the Malian army of the bases in Kidal, Tessalit and finally Timbuktu before the end of the year, relations with the country’s authorities have reached a level of tension in recent months rarely achieved.

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Mr. Macron’s first presidential trip in May 2017, to Gao already, had given rise to a bitter aside with Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta

For nearly nine years and the start of France’s armed intervention, the flow of relations between Paris and Bamako has never been quiet. The former head of state François Hollande had moments of perfect understanding with former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), but Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in defense and then in diplomacy, cannot say the same. Mr. Macron’s first presidential trip in May 2017, to Gao already, had given rise to a bitter aside with IBK, annoyed at having to travel outside the capital to welcome a young counterpart refusing to hear him say that peace in the Mali may depend on ” God’s will “.

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