The seizure of power by Captain Ibrahim Traoré in Burkina Faso on September 30th brings to five the number of successful coups d’état that have taken place in West Africa in the last two years. One of the main reasons for these coups has been the failure of the fight against terrorism in the Sahel region, which has led to growing insecurity. Another factor is the increasing role of Russia there. Justine Brabant reports.
Mercenaries from the Wagner Group, a Russian private paramilitary organisation with close ties to the Kremlin, have been linked to summary executions, forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests in Mali, where they are officially presented as “instructors” for the West African country’s army in its war against jihadist insurgents. While the Malian authorities deny that their Russian allies take part in direct combat, numerous eyewitness accounts tell a very different story. Paul Lorgerie reports from Mali.
A Malian army unit accompanied by foreign mercenaries, who from witness accounts appear to be members of Russia's paramilitary Wagner Group, last week carried out summary executions of hundreds of people in the town of Moura, in the centre of Mali, in an operation officially described as a crackdown on jihadist insurgents, according to a report by NGO Human Rights Watch. Mediapart’s West Africa correspondent Rémi Carayol has spoken to survivors of the massacre and with various sources including local rights activists, who say the dead, variously estimated to number between 300 and 600, were mostly non-jihadist civilians.
Amid high diplomatic tensions between France and the military regime in Mali, President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday announced a withdrawl of French military presence in the west African country, deployed nine years ago in a campaign to contain jihadist insurgents.
On Monday January 31st the military-civilian junta running Mali told France's ambassador to leave the country in a further escalation of the tension that has developed between the two nations in recent months. As Rémi Carayol observes, the next stage in the bitter war of words could be an announcement from Paris that France's military forces in the African country will be withdrawn.
Brigadier Alexandre Martin, 24, was killed and nine other French soldiers were wounded following a mortar attack on Saturday against their military camp near the town of Gao, central Mali, believed to have been launched by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist insurgents.
A year ago the French military bombed a wedding ceremony at Bounty in Mali, killing 22 men, of whom 19 were civilians. This terrible blunder was widely covered by the media at the time. But abuses committed in the following weeks and in the same region by the Malian army passed unnoticed. As Rémi Carayol reports, it would have been hard for French troops, who were on the ground with their Malian colleagues as part of a wide-ranging counter-insurgency operation, not to have been aware of what was going on. Yet the French military have remained silent about the incidents.
News emerged at the weekend that former French hostage Sophie Pétronin, 76, who was held captive for almost four years by an al-Qaeda affiliate in Mali until her release in October last year, secretly returned to the West African country in March, and has since been living with her adopted daughter in the capital Bamako. Her presence in the country was made public after the Malian authorities on Saturday issued a warrant for her arrest, for reasons that are still unclear. In this report for Mediapart, journalist Anthony Fouchard, who is close to Pétronin and her family, reveals the details of how the humanitarian worker, together with her son, succeeded in the long clandestine journey to Bamako.
French soldier Maxime Blasco, 34, previously decorated for bravery in action during France's military intervention against jihadist forces in the Sahel region of Africa, and who died in combat in Mali last Friday, was posthumously awarded the Légion d'honneur and promoted to the rank of sergeant in a ceremony in Paris led by French President Emmanuel Macron.