Relations between France and Mali 2017-2022: The Story of a Divorce


  • Carina Gunnarson
  • Gabriella Körling

Publish date: 2023-01-26

Report number: FOI-R--5347--SE

Pages: 92

Written in: Swedish


  • France
  • Mali
  • Sahel
  • Operation Barkhane
  • Macron.


In February 2022 president Macron announced his decision to withdraw the military Operation Barkhane from Mali after a rapid deterioration of the relations between Mali and France during 2021-2022. This report aims to explain the rupture of political and military relations between the two states by analysing key events during the period 2017-2022. The study shows that political factors were determinant to the "divorce" between the two states. The main contributing factor to the political crisis was the 2021 coup d'état in Mali after which Paris and Bamako had opposing views on the length of the transitional period and the timeline for elections. Other contributing factors to the breakdown in relations were aggressive rhetoric from both parties, growing anti-French sentiment in Mali, Mali's rapprochement to Russia and the presence of the Wagner Group in Mali. However, tensions were already evident when Macron took office in 2017. From a French perspective, there was discontent about the lack of political will in Bamako. In Mali, the worsening security situation had led to an increased distrust in Operation Barkhane. France's actions in Kidal in northern Mali had early on caused mistrust against the French military intervention, which was later used by the regime in Bamako to mobilise anti-French protests. In sum, the report shows that the rupture between Mali and France should be understood in a longer timeframe and that the analysis should not be limited to the events in 2021-2022, that led to France's decision to leave Mali.