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“France will be present in a different way;” French troops say as they leave Mali’s Timbuktu

French troops have handed over the keys to a military base around Timbuktu to Mali officials on Tuesday as part of plans to completely withdraw their engagement in the country and in the Sahel region.

General Etienne du Peyroux, head of France’s Operation Barkhane in Mali said at the handing over event that, France “will be present in a different way”. He added that, “this is ultimately the aim of Operation Barkhane: To allow Mali to take its destiny into its own hands … but always in partnership.”

French troops have been active in Mali since 2013 with an aim to help in the fight against jihadists in the Sahel; however, their engagement in the Sahel in general has been widely criticized as activities of the jihadists increased despite their presence in the region. In Mali for instance, many casualties have been recorded due to the activities of these insurgents but there isa French deployment in the same area.

Reacting to the news of French troop’s withdrawal, a Malian identified as Kibili Demba Dembele said: “In eight years in Mali, the French army has done nothing. It has to be said. I would say a decade of loss for the Malian nation. A decade completely lost like that.”

He added that, “It’s a catastrophic record, otherwise. When the French army came, you saw the enthusiasm and the welcome of the Malians all over Bamako, in Timbuktu, everywhere. In the same way, if the French army decides to leave or to reorganize, or at least to leave at point A or point B, the population should still come out to congratulate it, but did you see that? No, we are disappointed”

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