Mali halts visa issuance for French citizens amid diplomatic row

By Agencies August 10, 2023 5503

Mali has indefinitely suspended the issuance of visas to French nationals, its Foreign Ministry said Wednesday, in the latest standoff between the West African nation and its former colonial master.

In a statement, the ministry said the move was reciprocal after it “learned, with surprise" through the press that the French Foreign Ministry classified Mali in the “red zone” on the grounds of “strong regional tensions.”

France also reportedly suspended the issuance of visas and closed the visa center at its embassy in Mali’s capital, Bamako.

“In application of reciprocity, the ministry suspends, until further notice, the issuance of visas to French nationals by the diplomatic and consular services of Mali in France,” the statement said.

The “strong regional tensions” emanate from Niger, where the military ousted democratically elected President Mohamed Bazoum on July 26.

When the regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), warned of possible military intervention to restore constitutional order in Niger in the aftermath of the coup, neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso declared they would side with the coup leaders.

But relations between France and Mali have been rocky since soldiers in the former colony seized power in 2020 and 2021 military coups. The Mali junta banned French-funded non-governmental organizations and expelled French troops which were deployed there to help the country counter an insurgency.