By Paul Ejime
The Mali junta on Monday gave French Ambassador Joel Meyer, 72 hours to leave Bamako citing “hostile and outrageous” remarks credited to the French Foreign Minister.
A government statement in Bamako said the ambassador was summoned to the Malian Ministry of Foreign Affairs over recent comments by the French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on the presence of Danish troops in Mali.
The Danish contingent would be part of the expanded EU-supported Takuba Task Force, which France said would replace its reduced Barkhane forces fighting terrorism in the Sahel.
The statement by the Mali Foreign Ministry said the Danish troops and other contingents were yet to deploy in Mali.
The French Foreign Minister was also quoted as questioning the presence of Russian Wagner private military personnel in Mali, another source of disagreement between Bamako and Paris.
Mali approached Russia for support under a defence cooperation agreement following the French decision to reduce the Barkhane forces.
The Col Assimi Goita-led interim government in Bamako insists that Mali as a sovereign nation has the right to enter into bilateral accords with any country, noting that French forces have been in Mali since 2013.
There was no immediate French response to the expulsion of its envoy from Mali.
ECOWAS, the regional bloc, which is mediating the political crisis in Mali has suspended that country, as well as Guinea and Burkina Faso, over military takeovers in the three countries.
The regional body has also imposed crippling sanctions including financial and border blockade on Mali after the junta delayed its timetable for transition by three years.
Anti-French sentiments is growing in some African Francophone countries with critics accusing Paris of furthering imperialist and colonial control over its former colonies.