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24/01/2022  5 min 🇬🇧 #201073

Boris Johnson's Heart of Darkness Moment Is With His Relations With Macron and Africa

Martin Jay

What links Britain's own migrant crisis from France's shores and British squaddies in Mali? Unwanted asylum seekers.

Russian private military contractors propping up a military junta which France originally supported has now led even France to pull its own troops out. So what the hell are British soldiers doing there risking their lives?

The deployment of British soldiers in the West African country of Mali has reached a new farcical level, prompting the question why did Boris Johnson send them there in the first place?

In theory at least, 300 British troops of two regiments were sent there in February of last year to boost a UN operation fighting international terrorism. But in reality, they there to give tacit support to the French who have vital business interests in their former colony and need help in both preventing Islamic terrorists from harming those operations and protecting French nationals working for them.

But if that wasn't farcical enough, in recent days, it has been revealed by the French press that Macron is actually withdrawing French troops from the UN operation, which initially had 5000 French soldiers leading it.

His reason? The  presence of Russian private military contractors in Mali, believed to be there to support the military junta which took power in a coup in 2020 followed by a second one last year to oust a civilian government. In fact, Macron has been quietly  reducing his own troops from Mali since June of last year but this initiative is expected to be accelerated when the news of around 400 Wagner private military contractors had been hired by the Mali junta.

In recent days, the tension has reached fever pitch. A senior French diplomat said that alleged Wagner-group activity in Mali was still being assessed.

"It is still unacceptable for Wagner to deploy to Mali," the diplomat said, adding that the group's presence creates security risks.

"The problem we have in Mali is first of all a political problem," he said.

"There is a junta which has staged a coup, which exercises power illegitimately and which, to save itself, resorts to Wagner's services."

And so, if you're struggling to grasp how or why 300 British squaddies are fighting Islamic terrorists there to ostensibly keep the status quo in the country which helps France and its investment, you might be wondering what the hell Boris is doing now keeping them there given recent announcements from the Elysee. As France speeds up a massive withdrawal of its own troops from its former colony is Britain expected to deal with terrorists having the edge now? And what about the Russian private military contractors? Will British soldiers have to accept them as a dominant military power on the ground?

Clearly Boris Johnson, who is facing a political revolt from his own backbenchers, would be wise to take a second look at the Mali situation and Britain's relations with France given Macron's pugnacious attitude towards Brexit Britain. Many will argue that enough is enough from Macron who has deliberately allowed record numbers of migrants in France to make the crossing into UK. France's own navy won't hold illegal immigrants on flimsy dinghies from making the channel crossing - which puts a strain on housing resources, leaving some Brits out in the cold - let alone exasperating tensions within the cabinet as Priti Patel looks increasingly useless at dealing with the crisis.

So what links Britain's own migrant crisis from France's shores and British squaddies in Mali? In fact, they're both two sides of the same coin. Unwanted asylum seekers.

Is the British military is expected to help France with its own potential immigration problem if Mali sinks into the abyss and thousands of its citizens head to France for asylum? This is the heart of the matter. Macron cannot afford politically new immigration flows from Mali and so begged the international community for help there to boost the UN mission.

But the hypocrisy is stunning.

Many will surely argue that given our all-time record low relations with Macron, that the abusive nature of the relationship has now reached new level of travesty and that British troops really shouldn't be helping keep terrorists at arms length from the military regime in Bamako when even France itself no longer wants to prop it up.

The reality is that aside from the press on both sides of the channel bashing one another's governments, Boris and Macron have a bold vision of teaming up on playing the world's policemen in the troubled hotspots, with a garnish of peace keeping and humanitarian work thrown in to keep the PR boys happy. This is the real reason why Boris made the decision to help Macron in Mali and why he is so servile to the French president.

But we may well be at breaking point.

Heaven forbid the day a British soldier is seriously wounded or killed and it transpires that the incident was as a result of a vacuum left by France's retreat. Does Britain have to keep law and order in Mali just so France can cling to the absurd idea that it is still the colonial power there?

The leader of the opposition and Johnson's own backbenchers now need to be asking questions in the Commons as to the wisdom of the decision to send British troops to Mali. This madness has to come to an end. Or are they hoping for the draped coffins at Britain's RAF base Brize Norton which would be the final nail in Boris's coffin?

In the coming weeks and months Boris has a number of major hurdles to jump, namely a massive tax rise and local elections in spring. If he can survive the present debacle over office parties, most of the main hacks in Westminster are betting on these two events being his downfall. But it may well be long before that, when Russians in Mali become a huge news story and Boris struggles once again to give a coherent answer to why British soldiers are there. Cue 'This is the End' by The Doors and watch the murky water rise.