Mali has turned its back on France. This week, the government even accused the French army of espionage after it released a drone video of suspected Russian mercenaries.
Dead bodies lie in the yellow desert sand. These pictures from Mali appeared on the internet a week ago. It was said to be a mass grave next to a former French military base.
But France had recently published a drone video from the same place. It shows soldiers covering the corpses with sand and filming them. According to the French army, these were Russian mercenaries in a propaganda staging.
The video scandal continues to shoot in Mali. The government is now accusing France of espionage. The head of the information agency, Souleymane Dembélém, said this week: «The French are better at spying than at fighting terrorism. France’s drone footage from Mali was taken illegally.”
Withdrawal of the French troops
The French soldiers left their base near Gossi last week. France withdraws its troops from Mali. Since the coup two years ago, Mali’s military government and France have become increasingly at odds.
For years, the French had fought against jihadists and armed gangs in Mali, but without success from a Malian perspective. Now Mali has found a new partner in Russia. The military base of Gossi is immediately from taken over by Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group, says the French secret service.
Mali and Russia deny the presence of such mercenaries. But Russia officially sends military trainers and supplies equipment. When Russian combat helicopters arrived, Malian Chief of Staff Oumar Diarra recently praised the fruitful cooperation with Russia.
Real culture war going on
Russia versus France – that has grown into a culture war in Mali. The French channels RFI and France24 have just been banned. Young men enthusiastically wave Russian flags in the capital Bamako. Mali’s government says the country has become safer thanks to Russian support.
In fact, Mali’s army was able to drive out terrorist groups in the center of the country. But the security forces act relentlessly. For example in the small town of Moura, where the Malian army claims to have dug up a terrorist nest at the end of March. eyewitnesses disagree.
Military helicopters landed on market day, a villager tells broadcaster VOA. Then white men shot people from the roof of his house. Jihadists were killed, but mostly civilians.
With the Ukraine war, international reservations about the Russian presence in Mali are growing. This has consequences – for example for the EU, which trains Malian soldiers on site. This mission will probably end soon. During her visit to Mali two weeks ago, the German Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, already pointed out that France and Europe will soon be saying goodbye in Mali. But Russia will not be able to eliminate terror in the desert state on its own.
Cooperation with everyone except Paris
Mali’s military government is unperturbed by this. Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop replied to Baerbock that the Europeans’ problem was not understood. “Mali does not employ a private security company. We have long-term military cooperation with Russia. We need security to be able to return to democracy.”
And to do this, Mali would like to cooperate with all countries, apart from France. But in the field of tension between Russia and the West, this is more difficult than ever.