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IN a move that signals escalating diplomatic tensions, Mali has indefinitely suspended the issuance of visas to French nationals, the nation’s Foreign Ministry announced on Wednesday. This development marks the latest episode in an ongoing standoff between the West African nation and its former colonial ruler, France.
The Ministry released a statement explaining the decision, citing reciprocity after discovering that Mali had been classified in the ‘red zone’ by the French Foreign Ministry due to ‘strong regional tensions.’ The statement expressed the surprise of Malian authorities upon learning of this classification through press reports.
Adding to the complexity of the situation, France reportedly responded to the tension by suspending the issuance of visas and closing the visa centre at its embassy in Bamako, the capital of Mali.
The official statement from Mali’s Foreign Ministry outlined the reciprocal action: ‘In application of reciprocity, the ministry suspends, until further notice, the issuance of visas to French nationals by the diplomatic and consular services of Mali in France.’
The heightened regional tensions stem from neighbouring Niger, where a military coup ousted the democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26. The regional bloc, ECOWAS, a had warned of potential military intervention to reinstate constitutional order in Niger following the coup. In response, Mali and Burkina Faso declared their support for the coup leaders, exacerbating the regional turmoil.
However, relations between Mali and France have been strained for some time, particularly since the military coups that took place in the former colony in 2020 and 2021. The junta in Mali, which seized power, took steps such as banning French-funded non-governmental organizations and expelling French troops that had been deployed to assist the country in countering an insurgency.
The history of strained relations, coupled with these recent developments, has led to a further deterioration in diplomatic ties between Mali and its former colonial master, France. As both nations navigate this complex diplomatic landscape, the suspension of visas for French nationals by Mali underscores the depths of the ongoing dispute.