Mali’s president has tried to defuse tensions between Malians and the foreign troops battling Islamist militants in the African country, AFP reported on Sunday, December 1st.
There is a growing hostility against the foreign troops in Mali after the rise of militant violence given the presence of outside forces.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has urged Malians not to "bite the hands" of nations giving aid.
"We have no reason to glorify how we reached out to those who needed our help yesterday," the president said in a statement late Saturday, November 30th, referring to Malian soldiers’ involvement in the two world wars and peacekeeping missions.
“Mali’s at war, our unity is at stake. The war is killing our civilians and our soldiers, both Malians and foreigners, who are here to help us. We have no reason to bite the hand of those that reach out,” added Keita.
French forces have been in Mali since a 2013 campaign to drive out Islamist fighters from the country's north, but public anger over growing militant violence has recently turned on the presence of foreign troops.
Keita's appeal came days after a mid-air collision between two helicopters killed 13 French troops who were on a night-time operation against jihadists in Mali.
Mali's leader also called on all parties, including the main opposition, to take part in a national debate to be launched on December 14th to discuss solutions to the country's security crisis.
The French soldiers operate alongside a 15,000-strong United Nations peacekeeping mission, which the UN has described as its most dangerous globally.
Both France and the UN are deeply unpopular among Malians, who see them as incapable of providing adequate protection.