The population of Mali has taken to the streets demanding that the Russian government send mercenaries to restore order in the country after the military coup at the end of May.
The demonstrations took place just one day after it was known that Russian President Vladimir Putin is finishing detailing the fringes of a Mali agreement to be able to send mercenaries to the African country in order to improve its security. Russian President Vladimir Putin would also bolster his country’s interests in Africa.
Mali suffered a coup in late May. The temporary president, Bah Ndaw, and the prime minister, Moctar Ouane, were allegedly arrested by the military and taken to the Kati military camp, about 15 kilometers from the capital Bamako.
Another military coup in Mali, demonstrations take place outside the Russian embassy in Bamako calling for Moscow to intervene and restore order.#France it is losing its influence in Africa, in Mali, where a military operation is taking place. pic.twitter.com/0MaTK00WfN
– 𝔸𝕝𝕖𝕛𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕣𝕠 𝔽𝕣𝕚𝕒𝕤 ♚ (@FriasAlejandro_) May 30, 2021
The arrest of Ndaw and Ouané took place hours after the composition of the new government was known and that according to sources could have caused the discontent of the military after the exclusion of two important military commanders.
France is concerned about the Russian advance in its former colonies. As published by Reuters, from the Elysee s has launched a diplomatic campaign to prevent the military junta in Mali from enacting the agreement, which would allow Russian private military contractors, the Wagner Group, to operate in Mali.
Up to a thousand mercenaries
Two sources explained to the news agency that at least 1,000 mercenaries could be involved in the deal. Two other sources believed the number was lower, but did not provide figures.
The Wagner Group would receive about 6 billion CFA francs (10.8 million dollars) a month for their services, according to the sources consulted. A security source working in the region explained that the mercenaries would train the Malian army and provide protection to senior officials.
France’s diplomatic offensive would go through get help from multiple partners, including the United States, to persuade Mali’s military junta not to go ahead with the deal, and to send high-level diplomats to Moscow and Mali for talks.
France is concerned that the arrival of Russian mercenaries undermine your counterterrorism operation decade against al Qaeda and Islamic State-linked insurgents in the Sahel region of West Africa.
The French Foreign Ministry did not respond either, but a French diplomatic source criticized the Wagner Group interventions in other countries.
“An intervention by this actor would therefore be incompatible with the efforts made by Mali’s Sahelian and international partners participating in the Coalition for the Sahel for the security and development of the region,” said the source.
A spokesperson for the Mali junta leader, who took power in a military coup in August 2020, denied having information about such an agreement.
“That are rumors. Officials do not comment on the rumors, “said the spokesman, Baba Cisse, who declined to comment further.
The Malian Defense Ministry spokesman explained that “public opinion is in favor of greater cooperation with Russia given the current security situation. But no decision has been made (on the nature of that cooperation). “
The presence of the mercenaries would jeopardize Mali’s funding of international partners and allied training missions that have helped rebuild Mali’s army, four diplomatic and security sources said.
Having Russian mercenaries in Mali would strengthen Russia’s drive for global prestige and influence, and be part of a broader campaign to shake up long-lasting power dynamics in Africadiplomatic sources said.
More than a dozen people with ties to the Wagner Group have previously told Reuters that it has carried out clandestine combat missions on behalf of the Kremlin in Ukraine, Libya and Syria. Russian authorities deny that Wagner’s contractors are carrying out their orders.
Mali’s military junta has said it will oversee a transition to democracy that will lead to elections in February 2022.
As relations with France have worsened, the military junta of Mali has increased contacts with Russia, including Defense Minister Sadio Camara who visits Moscow and oversees the tank exercises on September 1. Four.
A senior source from the Malian Defense Ministry said the visit was carried out in “the framework of military cooperation and assistance” and did not elaborate. Russia’s Defense Ministry, for its part, stated that Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin had met with Camara during an international military forum and “discussed defense cooperation projects in detail, as well as regional security issues. related to West Africa “.
The top African diplomat at the French Foreign Ministry, Christophe Bigot, was sent to Moscow for talks on September 1 with Mikhail Bogdanov, Putin’s key person in the Middle East and Africa. The Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed the visit.
The French Foreign Ministry declined to comment on the visit. Bigot could not immediately be reached for comment. The Russian Foreign Ministry did not respond to questions from Reuters.