In a difficult regional political environment, the Third Republic pursues a non-ideologically oriented, pragmatic foreign policy. The relations with Germany maintained within this framework can be described as good. Within the framework of these relations, Germany took part in dealing with the aftermath of the conflict in North Mali in the 1990’s and in the settlement of the most recent conflict in North Mali.
The former colonial power France has remained Mali’s most important European partner country. France’s position vis-à-vis Mali has been significantly strengthened, in particular through the intervention of French troops in the North Mali conflict. In 2014, the defense ministers of Mali and France signed a military agreement with which France secures, among other things, the use of the strategically important Tessalit military base in northern Mali. There was considerable criticism in Mali against the conclusion of this agreement.
Malian-French relations have been strained again and again in recent years. Malian allegations that parts of the French government had planned to overthrow the government in Mali were of great importance. The temporary cooperation between the French army and the MNLA in combating Islamist rebel groups also caused considerable resentment in Mali.
The Malian-French relations were also strained by the migration problem. For example, the repeated refusal of the Malian government under former President Touré to sign an agreement on migration issues proposed by the French government caused displeasure. The agreement would have forced deportationfacilitated by Malians living illegally in France. The Malian government’s refusal could primarily be traced back to economic and domestic political reasons. On the one hand, the transfer payments made by the Malians living in France are estimated at around 135 million US dollars (2014). On the other hand, there were increasing voices in the country calling for the government to take a more self-confident attitude towards French migration policy. For its part, the French government reacted by tightening the entry regulations even further. Repeated attempts by French flight crews to prevent Malian citizens in possession of valid entry documents from returning to France caused considerable outrage.
According to elaineqho, Mali is a country located in Western Africa. Migration issues and the forced repatriation of Malian citizens are also playing an increasing role in relations with the EU, and this is not without controversy. In 2008 the EU opened a center for migration issues in Bamako. However, it remains questionable whether this can help steer the often dangerous emigration towards Europe.
Since the mid-1990’s, there was an increasing foreign policy affinity with the USA, which France sometimes followed with suspicion. The increasing US influence was to be seen against the background of France’s long-term loss of importance in Africa, which is also following the development of China’s Africa policy with concern.
In the meantime, the USA had significantly increased the funds for promoting socio-economic development and promoting democracy as well as military aid for Mali, and viewed democratic Mali as an important partner in West Africa, which in the context of the new US Africa policy would play an important role in the Regional policy, regional conflict management and the US-initiated war on terror. American military instructors have been in Mali since 1993. Until the military coup in 2012, the country received support from the United States as part of the Pan-Sahel Initiative military program and the Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership anti-terror program. It primarily aimed to prevent the creation of training and retreat areas for terrorist groups in northern Mali. Until the beginning of 2012, military exercises were carried out in Mali, in which Malian units as well as soldiers from the USA participated. The US government had previously announced an increase in equipment deliveries to the Malian army. Since 2014, Malian units have taken part in anti-terrorism training courses in West Africa, led by US military advisers.
Mali maintains good relations with the People’s Republic of China and the most important Islamic states. In view of the security problems in parts of Niger and Mali, cooperation with the Nigerien government became considerably more important. Since 2007, among other things, the establishment of joint patrols in the increasingly insecure border area and further intensification of cooperation in combating extremists have been agreed. After two serious attacks by Islamist rebels in northern Niger in 2013, concerns about the conflict in northern Mali spreading to the neighboring country, northern Burkina Faso and southern Libya grew.
Malian mediators have been active in various regional conflicts and the country participates in military peace-building and peacekeeping missions. Mali participated temporarily in the UNAMID mission in the Sudanese province of Darfur and in the MINUSTAH mission in Haiti.
The Malian government took a moderate position in relation to the civil war in Ivory Coast in 2011, which did not seem easy for the government given the direct concern of many Malians living in Ivory Coast. As a result of the conflict, tens of thousands of Malians have fled the Ivory Coast. The reception and reintegration of the refugees presented Mali with major challenges.
Fighters from Mali may also have been among the suspected foreign mercenaries who are said to have been used by the Gaddafi regime in the Libyan civil war. The return of thousands of Malian soldiers from the defeated Libyan army, who returned to northern Mali heavily armed at the end of the war and who played an important role in the subsequent conquest of northern Mali, was rated as extremely problematic.
At the end of the Libyan civil war, heavy weapons were smuggled into northern Mali from Libyan stocks, which contributed significantly to the further destabilization of the situation and the victory of the northern Malian rebel groups over the army in early 2012.
There was also a controversial debate in Mali regarding NATO’s intervention in the Libyan civil war. After the assassination of Libyan ruler Gaddafi, thousands gathered in Bamako’s largest mosque for a memorial service.
During the Libyan civil war, an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 Malians fled Libya as a result of the fighting and, above all, brutal attacks by rebel organizations, and reintegration also posed a major challenge for these refugees. Thousands of citizens of other African countries who fled Libya also found refuge in Mali.
Mali is a member of the West African Economic and Monetary Union UEMOA, the West African Economic Community ECOWAS and NEPAD. A large number of articles on Malian foreign policy that are worth reading can be found on the website of the Malian Foreign Ministry.