Hundreds reported killed by Malian army and Wagner Group

Mali - France is gravely concerned by reports of large-scale abuses in central Mali – Press briefing by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs Spokesperson (excerpt)

Paris, 4 April 2022

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France is gravely concerned by reports of large-scale abuses in the village of Moura by members of the Malian armed forces accompanied by Russian mercenaries belonging to the Wagner Group. These abuses reportedly took hundreds of civilian lives.

France offers its condolences to the victims’ families and calls for the prompt launch of national and international investigations in order to assign responsibility for these crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice.

France is concerned by the increasing number of abuses that have taken place in central Mali since the start of 2022 and the impunity with which they are carried out. We call on the Malian authorities to take the necessary measures to stem this violence. We would like to see MINUSMA use all means at its disposal to shed light on these events and help protect civilians, in accordance with its mandate.

The fight against active terrorist groups in the Sahel must never under any circumstances justify human rights violations. Indiscriminate violence against civilians will only serve to strengthen these groups./.

Foreign policy – Mali/Niger – Interview given by M. Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, to France 24 and RFI (excerpts)

Paris, 30 March 2022

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Mali

Q. – We’re going to talk about Mali. The military personnel of [Operation] Barkhane are packing their bags after nine years there. Fifty-eight French soldiers have lost their lives. The jihadists are still there; they’ve even gained ground. Would you say you have a sense of bitterness – you who have gone through [Operations] Serval to Barkhane – a sense of wastefulness, really, and a form of powerlessness?

THE MINISTER – The wastefulness is political, because people often remember the Serval initiative, at the time, and then Barkhane, to prevent terrorist actions by organized groups. After all, we have to remind viewers and listeners that the terrorist groups are both Daesh and al-Qaeda. They’re not informal groups, they’re groups with a voice, organizations which are accustomed to the type of combat they wage, and we were right to take action at that time to protect Mali. We did the right thing, because what’s at stake is – was and still is – the sovereignty and integrity of Mali.

And the date I personally refer to most is 2015, the Algiers agreement, because there’s a basis, there’s a solution. There were negotiations, there were discussions that led to the agreement, which the Malian leaders, for lots of reasons, didn’t want to implement. The Algiers agreement is based on decentralization, on the disarmament of the armed groups that were signatories, their inclusion in the Malian armed forces or police forces, and on development – the three Ds: decentralization, disarmament and development.

And the beginning of the beginning was barely visible. There’s this text which is guaranteed, first of all by the Algerian authorities who are the guarantors of the agreement. We were talking earlier about guarantees; well, the Algerian authorities have the responsibility, which they are shouldering, of implementing the agreement; but for the time being, there’s no response from Mali’s side. And the Algiers agreement also enabled United Nations forces to be present on Malian territory to ensure its implementation. The text is on the table; let’s take it.

Q. – For two months the Malian military and suspected militias from Russia’s Wagner Group have been held responsible by the United Nations and Human Rights Watch of serious atrocities in central Mali. Can you confirm those reports or not?

THE MINISTER – All the information we have – including the NGOs that have investigated the matter, including the United Nations – shows that ultimately Wagner’s presence in Mali means what? It means atrocities and limitations on public freedoms; you know something about that. That’s what Wagner is about.

Q. – You’re alluding to the suspension of broadcasts by RFI and France 24.

THE MINISTER – Yes, of course. It’s a new authoritarianism that means the junta in power is also, in a way, held hostage on those points by the Wagner force. So Wagner, which was reputedly due to be a liberating force, is a force for atrocities and predatory behaviour. And furthermore, it helps itself to Mali’s own resources. That’s why this is very serious.

Q. – Time is running out. Two months ago the French Ambassador in Bamako was expelled by the Malian authorities, who accused him of plotting against them. Has all dialogue with Bamako been broken off, or is Emmanuel Macron talking to the head of Mali’s junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta?

THE MINISTER – But that government has no legitimacy. It’s a government resulting from a coup, and a government which isn’t currently putting in place the forms of legitimate recognition it could have from the Malian people. We ourselves are working with ECOWAS, which is organizing all the region’s States to fight terrorism, because what’s going to happen is a complete restructuring of the French operation and the European operation, and the decision to restructure, reposition and reorganize was taken in February by the Europeans and Africans together, in order to organize differently – it’s a genuine overhaul – and also give greater range to our joint action, in support of the various authorities of the countries affected by the terrorist threat, not just the Sahel countries but now also the Gulf of Guinea countries, because we’re seeing breaches, and a porosity in the terrorist groups’ action in the north of those countries.

Niger

Q. – So, France is going to redeploy in Niger. We saw a violent anti-French demonstration in Tera in November 2021, when a Barkhane military convoy passed through. Three demonstrators were killed. Don’t we risk coming up against the same problem in Niger as in Mali, i.e. anti-French feeling?

THE MINISTER – No, that’s absolutely not what’s going to happen.

Q. – OK.

THE MINISTER – France isn’t going to redeploy in Niger. (…) I’m going to Madrid on Monday to attend the third meeting of the Alliance for the Sahel to mobilize funds for those countries; we’re going to reorganize ourselves based on what each State concerned needs and is requesting, be it in the Sahel or the Gulf of Guinea States, with tailored responses, depending on the various countries, and in solidarity with the Europeans and Africans. So it isn’t a case of “France moving back to Niger”, that’s not the case. In Niger, there’ll be a request.

Q. – Yes, there’ll be a French presence, that’s what you’re saying…

THE MINISTER – But it’s European. (…)./.

Published on 05/04/2022

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