On February 2, 2013, Mamadou Touré was one of the thousands of Malians who gathered on avenue de l’Indépendance in Bamako to give a dignified welcome to François Hollande, the « sauveur ». A few days earlier, at the request of the Malian authorities, France launched Operation Serval to stop the jihadist advance. Eight years later, the enthusiasm has disappeared in this Bamako thirty-something. “I didn’t think we would be there yet in 2021. Still dead and occupied territories”, he confides.
→ ANALYSIS. France in Mali, a battle of seven years
Even if he admits his disenchantment, he will not participate in the demonstration on January 20 – Day of the Malian Army Day – against “French imperialism”. For the organizers of this rally, Barkhane is seen as an occupying force.
« For us, Barkhane is a failure ”, asserts Adama Ben Diarra, nicknamed Ben the Brain, recognizable by his communist cap still screwed on his head. The latter regrets that, “Despite its latest generation military resources, it cannot rout 3,000 people who ride motorcycles”.
Barkhane less efficient than Serval
Now a member of the National Transitional Council – the transitional parliament created by the putschists after the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta – Adama Ben Diarra makes his voice heard there to ask Russia to supplant France in the country.
→ READ. Barkhane, the time of questioning
As Modibo Galy Cissé, a doctoral student at Leiden University in the Netherlands, who frequently conducts surveys in the north as in central Mali, points out, the populations maintain that Barkhane is less efficient than Serval.
« Since Barkhane, terrorist groups reorganized before expanding their area of action. Today, they operate in the center of the country and are steadily gaining ground, as evidenced by attacks further south ”, he analyzes. In Gao, the gateway to northern Mali, Barkhane only has one base. It provides regular patrols in the area but not very dissuasive, according to a teacher in the city who requested anonymity.
« Barkhane is carrying out strikes in certain areas in order to calm the ardor of his detractors, specifies the researcher. But it rarely brings aid to the armies of the Sahel attacked by terrorists, despite its sophisticated air resources. »
“We continue to suffer”
In fact, a certain mistrust of foreign forces has developed in recent years among the local population. Barkhane is very often compared to the UN force (Minusma) to underline its ineffectiveness. « Eight years after the start of the French intervention, we continue to suffer ”, laments the teacher.
→ ANALYSIS. The future of Operation Barkhane in question
However, the inhabitants of Gao do not ask for the departure of the French force: Barkhane also carries out social, health and economic interventions for the benefit of the population. This inhabitant himself claims to have benefited from it. “But you have to know the right intermediaries”, he specifies.
In Douentza, in the center of the country, Barkhane has been at the heart of discussions since she carried out an air raid on January 3 that left several dead, civilians gathered for a wedding according to villagers. A thesis rejected by the Malian army and the French Minister of the Armed Forces Florence Parly, affirming on Sunday January 10 on France Inter that France had “Hired two fighter planes which eliminated dozens of jihadists”, and that he “There was no marriage, no wives, no children”.
→ READ. Mali: doubts around a deadly strike by “Barkhane”
The controversy has not stopped swelling since, strengthening the camp of those who wish to see Barkhane leave this area, known to be a “Lair” terrorists, explains a national of this locality. This controversy shows, in his eyes, the need to dialogue with armed groups to find a lasting solution to the crisis. Malians have already expressed in 2019 their willingness to negotiate with terrorists during the inclusive national dialogue. France has always opposed it.