French president cancels Mali trip over Covid crisis
A French Marine Special Operation Forces officer trains Mali's FAMA soldiers as new Task Force Takuba a multinationals military mission in sub-Saharan Africa's troubled region, in the Mali's Menaka army base, on December 7, 2021. Brand new sand-colored tents, freshly dug trenches, helicopter ballet: in the midst of the reduction of French military personnel in Mali, the Ménaka camp (northeast) is an exception: formerly a small rustic forward base of the anti-jihadist operation Barkhane. (Thomas COEX / AFP)
(AFP) - France's President Emmanuel Macron Friday cancelled a trip to Mali to meet transitional leader Colonel Assimi Goita after the European country announced new measures to battle coronavirus.
The French leader was to meet the Malian strongman on Monday, for the first since he was sworn into office in June after leading the country's second coup in less than a year.
Macron was also supposed to pay a Christmas visit to French troops stationed there to fight a jihadist insurgency in the country.
"This decision was taken for consistency between the measures announced at national level and the president's international agenda, and to not expose our troops" as France battles a fifth wave of the virus, the presidency said in a statement.
The presidency however said a Christmas meal prepared by the president's chef would be flown over to French military personnel stationed in the Sahel country.
It added that organising the meeting with the Goita had been tricky even before the cancellation.
Macron had wished to meet Goita in the presence of Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo and Chad's leader Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, but Chad refused this format.
Chad and other neighbouring countries are also involved in the fight against the jihadists.
The planned visit was due at a tense time in relations between France and Mali.
Paris is deeply concerned over the possibility that Russian mercenaries could be deployed in the African country as France begins to draw down its troops there.
© Agence France-Presse