Malian Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga charged France on Saturday, September 25, before the United Nations (UN), after Paris’ decision to withdraw the Barkhane force from the country.
“The new situation born at the end of Barkhane, placing Mali in front of a fait accompli and exposing it to a kind of abandonment in midair, leads us to explore the ways and means to better ensure security in an autonomous manner with ‘other partners’, explained Choguel Kokalla Maïga at the podium of the UN General Assembly.
It is “Fill the void that the closure of certain Barkhane rights-of-way in northern Mali will not fail to create”, specified the Prime Minister, deploring a “Lack of consultation” from Paris, and an announcement “Unilateral” without tripartite coordination with the UN and the Malian government.
“Mali regrets that the principle of consultation and concertation, which must be the rule between privileged partners, was not observed upstream of the decision”, insisted the Malian Prime Minister, also demanding “A more offensive posture” of the 15,000 peacekeepers of the Minusma mission in the face of an increased jihadist threat in the Sahel.
The Wagner group in ambush
Shortly before, the head of Russian diplomacy, Sergei Lavrov, had confirmed that Bamako had approached “Russian private companies”, during a press conference at the UN, while ensuring that this did not concern the Russian government. France and the European Union are concerned about this orientation of Mali towards Russia during exchanges in New York, said Sergei Lavrov.
“The Malian authorities have turned to a private Russian military company because, if I understand correctly, France wants to significantly reduce its military forces which were supposed to fight the terrorists in Kidal”, said the Russian minister. The French “Did not succeed and terrorists continue to reign in this region”, he added in a spade with regard to Barkhane.
“All this is done on a legitimate basis”, between a “Legitimate government, recognized by all” and entities that “Provide services through foreign specialists”, he argued. “We have nothing to do with it”, he insisted again, Russia systematically denying that Russian private paramilitary companies are subordinate to it.
Present, among others, in Libya and the Central African Republic, where it has been accused of abuses since the spring, the Wagner group provides maintenance services for military equipment and training? but is also accused of mercenarism and suspected of belonging to a businessman close to the Kremlin, Evguéni Prigojine. He is suspected, in particular by Paris, of acting on behalf of the Kremlin where the latter does not want to appear officially.
“At the governmental level, Russia contributes to the military defense capabilities of Mali”, also said Sergey Lavrov, referring to the provision of“Technical military equipment”. And to estimate: “It would be better to synchronize the action of the European Union and Russia in the fight against terrorism, not only in Mali but also in the Sahel and Sahara region”.
Concern of the European Union
Thirteen European countries, some of them involved in the Takuba coalition of special forces in Mali, deemed unacceptable on Friday any involvement of the Wagner group in this country. France, Germany or Estonia went further, warning that they would reconsider their military presence in Mali if an agreement was reached.
In addition to the UN, worried in covert words about Wagner’s arrival in Mali, the European Union (EU), which provides training for Malian soldiers through its UETM Mali mission, made up of 700 soldiers from twenty-five European countries, warned that an involvement of this Russian company would affect “Seriously” its relations with Bamako.
” To say “I was there first, get out!” it is insulting, in the first place for the government in Bamako which invited foreign partners ”, replied Sergey Lavrov.
France, engaged since January 2013 in the Sahel and which has lost 52 soldiers in the Sahel, including the last Friday, has decided to reorganize its military presence around a tighter device, centered on targeted strikes against jihadist leaders and on the support for local armies.
The French soldiers must therefore leave the bases of Kidal, Tessalit and Timbuktu, in northern Mali, by December, and the number of French troops deployed in the Sahel is expected to increase from more than 5,000 men currently to 2,500 or 3,000. ‘by 2023.
The French Minister of the Armies Florence Parly however reaffirmed, Monday in Bamako, that France was not leaving Mali and that it remained “Determined” to continue the fight against terrorism there alongside the Malian forces.