Tear gas was fired this Wednesday in Bamako (Mali) by the Malian forces to disperse a hundred demonstrators who, despite the ban on their gathering, began to protest against the presence of the French anti-jihadist force in the country.
Police and gendarmes were deployed in large numbers around Independence Square, according to journalists on the spot.
The demonstration banned due to the coronavirus
At the same time motorcycles processions from different districts of the capital were on their way to the square, a traditional place for gatherings, and to participate in the demonstration. “We are going to make caravans everywhere to converge on the boulevard”, launched to the address of several dozen young people one of the figures of the collective at the origin of the call to demonstrate, Adama Diarra, better known under the nickname of “Ben the brain”. The authorities banned the demonstration citing the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic.
France, engaged militarily since 2013 in Mali, deploys there and in the Sahel 5,100 soldiers in the anti-jihadist force Barkhane. This military presence regularly arouses expressions of animosity on social networks, in the mouths of certain personalities and during episodic demonstrations in Bamako.
Malian soldiers in favor of the French presence
Several organizers of the demonstration scheduled for Wednesday are members of the National Transitional Council, a legislative body for the transitional period opened after the military coup of August 18, 2020 and supposed to bring back elected civilians to power after 18 months. This transition is still dominated by the military who, for their part, affirmed from the start their attachment to military cooperation with France.
“I would like to renew our country’s gratitude to the international community whose armies are at our side and whose soldiers are risking their lives for the liberation of our country,” transitional President Bah Ndaw said on Tuesday evening on the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the Malian army. The demonstration was scheduled as Paris is preparing to “adjust” its military effort in the Sahel, in the words of President Emmanuel Macron, perceived as foreshadowing a decrease in Barkhane’s strength.