Will the Russian mercenaries of the private company Wagner soon be active in Mali? Yes, according to the British news agency Reuters, which says that negotiations between the transitional authorities and the Wagner group are ongoing and even “close to completion”.
The Wagner Group already exists in Africa, especially in Libya and the Central African Republic, where its abuse has been documented by journalists, in particular RFI, and by human rights organizations. In Mali, on the other hand, it would be a first and that, in the context of French decoupling with the announced end of Operation Barkhane and the reduction of French military personnel in the country.
According to Reuters, the agreement being negotiated would mean that several hundred or even a thousand Russian mercenaries would be sent to Mali. The Wagner group would receive six billion CFA francs – more than nine million euros – per month to train Malian soldiers and ensure the protection of certain senior leaders. No direct participation in the fight against terrorist groups.
The Wagner Group’s access to three mining sites would also be part of the discussions. Reuters relies on seven diplomatic and military sources, but no official confirmation, neither on the Wagner side nor on the Malian side. Asked by RFI for several days on the subject, none of the government, military or presidential authorities have contacted confirmed the ongoing discussions.
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Paris would try to deter Bamako from making the deal a reality Mali’s defense minister visited Moscow earlier this month. This is not his first assignment in the country he knows well since Colonel Sadio Camara, as well as Colonel Assimi Goïta, the transition president, completed part of his training in Russia. This is also the case with Colonel Malick Diaw, President of the National Transitional Council. These are three of the five pillars of the CNSP junta, author of the coup in August 2020, which ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.
Reuters further claims that Paris is currently trying to deter the Malian authorities from going through the deal. Without confirming it, a high-ranking officer in the French army recalls the many abuses that the Wagner group is accused of in the Central African Republic. And to comment: “It really is not the best solution.”