Putin’s private army could provoke a security crisis in Mali

BAMAKO, ($1=555.292 XOF) – Founded by Dmitry Outkine, a former GRU [Russian military intelligence], with the support of businessman Evgeny Prigogine, a close friend of the Kremlin, the Russian private military company [PMC] Wagner established itself in the Central African Republic in 2018 after Moscow received permission from the Council UN Security Council to supply arms to the Central African Armed Forces [FACa].

The close defense of Central African President Fostin-Arhang Tuadera was then entrusted to Russian mercenaries while a disinformation campaign against France was launched. In addition, Bangui signed co-operation agreements with Moscow.

PMC Wagner, who has an interest in the country’s mineral resources, is doing more than training FACa soldiers as he is involved in fighting rebel groups in Central Africa. In June, a United Nations report condemned the abuses committed by its latter and their Russian “instructors,” while Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French foreign minister, condemned the “seizure of power” in Bangui by Russian mercenaries.

Will this scenario be repeated in Mali? In any case, this is the information of Reuters, confirmed by several sources. In this way, Bamako intends to sign an agreement with PMC Wagner to train the Malian Armed Forces [FAMa] and ensure the “protection of senior figures”. But such “services” would not be free: a fee of just over € 9 million a month, as well as privileged access to three mine deposits [two gold and one magnesium].

“Now Mali intends to diversify its relations in the medium term to ensure the country’s security. We have not signed anything with Wagner, but we are discussing with everyone,” said the Mali Ministry of Defense, headed by Colonel Sadio Kamara, who completed an internship in Russia shortly before the coup. “He was one of the actors. But “nothing has been signed at this stage,” he added, responding to a request from AFP.

It is no surprise that Russia is interested in Mali, where, at the request of the Malian authorities, France has deployed troops to combat jihadist groups there, as part of Operation Barkhane, which has spread to the entire Sahel. Since independence in 1961, Bamako had built close ties with Moscow. But these relations did not survive the collapse of the Soviet Union thirty years later.

In any case, the prospect of landing Russian mercenaries in Mali is not to the liking of Paris, which announced a major overhaul of its military apparatus in the Sahel in June. This is what Le Drian said during a hearing before the Foreign Affairs Committee in the National Assembly on September 14.

“This is completely incompatible with our presence. The intervention of a group of this type in Mali would be incompatible with the actions of Mali’s Sahelian and international partners,” Mr. Le Drian said. “They have distinguished themselves in the past, especially in Syria, in the Central African Republic, many of which “Predators, violations of all kinds [and] cannot respond to any solution,” he recalled at the time. He insisted: “In the Central African Republic, this has led to a deterioration in the security situation.”

The same day, before the deputies of the Defense Committee, the Minister of the Armed Forces, Florence Parley, considered that if the Malian authorities signed a contract with Wagner, it would be extremely worrying and contradictory, incompatible with everything we have done for years and everything “which we intend to do in support of the Sahel countries.”

In his introductory speech, the minister recalled that there was no question of France withdrawing militarily from the Sahel.

“We are not leaving the Sahel. We continue to fight terrorism. We maintain a military system to continue to support our Sahel partners while adapting to the evolution of the threat. The transformation ordered by the President of the Republic is by no means a departure from Mali, but a reconfiguration of our forces to make them even more operational and effective. I remind you that the final deployment of French troops in the Sahel will continue to rely on the constant commitment of the French troops together with our partners. I can tell you that this will be a real, consistent, and ongoing effort for our armies,” Ms. Parly explained.

However, according to an AFP source, the arrival of PMC Wagner in Mali [there is talk of at least a thousand mercenaries] would run the risk of calling into question US support for French operations or even the European Union with the Takuba special forces group. “The United States would stop everything,” and “some European countries might also decide to give up,” she said.

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