French President Emmanuel Macron will next week travel to Mali for his first meeting with transitional leader Colonel Assimi Goita who led the coup last August that ousted the country’s elected president, the French presidency said.
Macron’s meeting with Goita in Bamako on Monday will come at a tense time in relations between France and Mali with the French government deeply concerned over the possibility that Russian mercenaries could be deployed as France begins to draw down its troops.
During his trip, Macron will also pay a Christmas visit to French troops stationed at its base in Goa. French forces earlier this week left the northern city of Timbuktu after a nine-year presence there.
Macron, whose visit will last until Tuesday next week, is also expected to press Goita on sticking to a schedule to hold elections in February.
Goita was sworn into office in June after leading the country’s second coup in less than a year.
He headed a putsch last August that ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of mass protests over corruption and the long-running jihadist conflict.
The junta then handed power to a civilian-led transitional government which promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022.
But in late May, Goita, who was vice president under the transitional government, ousted the president, Bah Ndaw, and premier Moctar Ouane, saying they had sought to “sabotage” the handover.
Goita in July then survived an assassination attempt at a mosque in Bamako