Mali said Sunday it was withdrawing from a west African force fighting jihadists to protest its being rejected as head of the G5 regional group, which also includes Mauritania, Chad, Burkina and Niger.
The G5 Sahel was created in 2014 and its anti-jihadist force launched in 2017.
A conference of heads of state of the G5 Sahel scheduled for February 2022 in Bamako had been due to mark “the start of the Malian presidency of the G5”.
But nearly four months after the mandate indicated this meeting “has still not taken place”, the statement said.
Bamako “firmly rejects the argument of a G5 member state which advances the internal national political situation to reject Mali’s exercising the G5 Sahel presidency”, the statement said, without naming the country.
The Mali government said “the opposition of some G5 Sahel member states to Mali’s presidency is linked to manoeuvres by a state outside the region aiming desperately to isolate Mali”, without naming that country.
Mali has been since January 9 the target of a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions from west African states to punish the military junta’s bid to stay in power for several more years, following coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
The junta has opted for a two-year transition while the Economic Community of West African States has urged Bamako to organise elections in 16 months maximum.
Beyond Mali and Burkina, the G5 Sahel, composed of around 5,000 troops, includes Mauritania, Chad and Niger.
The military coups in Mali and Burkina Faso are undermining the regional force’s opertional capacity, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said in a report to Security Council on May 11.
“I am deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the Sahel, as well as by the potentially debilitating effect the uncertain political situation in Mali, Burkina Faso and beyond will have on efforts to further operationalise the G5-Sahel Joint Force,” Guterres’ report said.