Bamako - Mali's military government has lashed out at French President Emmanuel Macron, accusing him of having a "neo-colonial" attitude and stirring up ethnic hatred.
The official statement was read by government spokesperson Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga on Mali's state TV and radio station ORTM and posted to the station's Facebook page.
Maiga referenced statements made by French President Emmanuel Macron on the situation in Mali during Macron's visit to Guinea-Bissau, the last stop in a tour of West Africa in which he pledged support to several countries in the fight against extremism.
The government of the transition demands President Macron to definitively abandon his neo-colonial, paternalistic and condescending stance," Maida said in French.
Maiga also called Macron's remarks, in which he deplored "systemic violence" targeting the Fulani population," "hateful and defamatory," saying they are "likely to arouse ethnic hatred" in Mali.
Both the Malian and French armies have been accused of violence against the Fulani community in recent years during anti-terrorism operations. The U.N. accused France of killing 19 civilians during an airstrike on the Fulani village of Bounti, Mali in 2021, and human rights organizations have accused the Malian army of arbitrarily killing dozens of men from the Fulani ethnic group on several occasions.
Maiga also called Macron's remarks expressing concern over the presence of Wagner mercenaries in Mali "erroneous accusations."
Demonstrators hold up a sign that reads 'Death to France and its allies,' during a mass demonstration to protest sanctions imposed on Mali and the Junta, by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), in Bamako.
Mali has continually denied working with mercenaries since France first launched accusations that Wagner mercenaries were present in Mali in December of last year, claiming only to work with official Russian trainers.
Russian President Vladimir Putin denied an official Russian presence in Mali during a press conference with the French president in February.
France announced the withdrawal of its troops from Mali this year partly over concerns that Mali is working with mercenaries, ending an almost decade-long deployment which began when France intervened after northern Mali was taken over by Islamist militants in 2012.
In March, Human Rights Watch released a report in which several residents of Moura, Mali, attested to witnessing mercenaries committing human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings with the Malian army over a period of five days.