Mali’s prime minister, Choguel Maiga, accused France of abandoning his country on Saturday. Mali is therefore seeking rapprochement with Russian mercenaries, Russia confirmed.
France announced in the summer that it would be phasing out its military counter-terrorism presence in the Sahel region. When reports surfaced earlier this month that the Malian government might call on a Russian paramilitary organization, Paris warned that this would be “incompatible” with maintaining French troops in Mali.
At the 76th UN General Assembly in New York, Malian Prime Minister Maiga said that his country was being presented by France “before a fait accompli”. Therefore, the country had to seek solutions “with other partners” to ensure security in the country, it said. The prime minister complained about a lack of consultation.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov also confirmed in New York that the Malian authorities have reached out to Russia’s private military security company. The Russian government has nothing to do with that, he emphasized. Russian mercenaries from the Wagner company are already active in Libya and the Central African Republic.
France has been militarily active in the Sahel region since early 2013. 52 soldiers have been killed since then, the last of whom was killed last Friday. By December, French soldiers should have left three bases in northern Mali. This is a reorganization in which the number of French soldiers in the region will be reduced from more than 5,000 currently to 2,500 to 3,000 by 2023.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly reiterated this week in the Malian capital Bamako that France intends to leave Mali and wants to continue fighting terrorists alongside the Malian troops.