Senegalese President Macky Sall on February 21 urged Germany to keep its troops in Mali, amid uncertainty over their future in the fragile Sahel country after France announced a military withdrawal.
The call came at a news conference in Senegal’s capital Dakar with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who was visiting the West African state.
“Mali cannot be abandoned. You have to maintain your presence in the Sahel. Africa needs it,” Sall said.
Germany has 1,170 soldiers deployed as part of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA.
The European state has also contributed 328 troops to the EU military training mission (EUTM Mali) in the Sahel country.
But France announced last week that it was pulling thousands of troops from Mali, plunging the future of Germany’s military engagement into doubt.
German Minister of Defence Christine Lambrecht has said she is “sceptical” about continued participation in the EU training mission and has questioned whether Germany should remain committed to MINUSMA without French support.
Sall, who is also the current chair of the African Union, said on February 21 that “we need European forces, MINUSMA, and Germany in Mali”.
Senegal shares a long border with Mali, a vast and ethnically diverse nation of 21 million people.
Steinmeier told the news conference that “Germany should remain present in a form that contributes to the stability of the Sahel”.
But he added that the final decision rested with Germany’s parliament, which is due to decide whether to extend the country’s participation in MINUSMA and EUTM Mali in May.
Later Chad’s junta leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno announced on state media that his country would increase its troop numbers in the UN peacekeeping force following France’s withdrawal.
“Mali is the epicentre of terrorism in the Sahel,” said the young lieutenant-general who heads the military junta that took power 10 months ago after the death of his father Idriss Deby Itno.
“With the agreement of the Malian authorities and MINUSMA, we are going to reinforce our forces.”
Mali has been struggling to contain a brutal jihadist insurgency that first emerged in 2012, before spreading to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed and two million people forced to flee their homes by the Sahel-wide conflict, of which Mali remains the epicentre.
France announced a military pullout last week due to a dispute with Mali’s military junta, which seized power in 2020 and has since defied international calls to swiftly restore civil rule.