French troops have officially exited Mali, marking the end of a nine-year mission that traversed the realm of public perception from popular protector to colonialist scourge, Al Jazeera reports.
French troops entered Mali in 2013 at the request of the country’s government to help fight an existential jihadist threat. As French presence in the country expanded, the jihadist insurgency coursed south from its stronghold in the country’s north toward the center and across the Sahel region.
But after Mali’s military took power in a coup last year, public attitudes toward the French soured. France announced its intent to withdraw from Mali in February, as mercenaries from the Russia-affiliated Wagner Group began popping up with Malian officials.
The Sahel region, a semi-arid strip that spans across the continent along the south edge of the Sahara Desert, has become a hotbed of instability in recent years. More than 2.5 million people have been displaced in the past decade, according to the UN. Some 2,000 civilians were killed in the first six months of this year, according to AfricaNews.