Bamako – Former separatists in Mali on Thursday said they opposed a potential government deal with Russian mercenary group Wagner, warning against the use of “militias” in the Sahel state.
In a statement, the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), said it had learned through social media that the government was on the verge of signing a deal with the private security firm.
The mostly Tuareg CMA said it is “the civilian population, already battered and weakened by a decade of crisis, that will pay the price of the use of mercenaries.”
Two French sources told AFP this week that the Malian government was nearing a deal with the controversial Russian firm, which would underline Moscow’s growing influence in the region.
Both France and Germany, which have troops in Mali, have warned against Mali doing business with Wagner.
France, EU and the US might withdraw their forces and stop any military aid if the Russian mercenaries step in Mali. France said it will move its forces to Niger. https://t.co/pcdlVvXwm7
— Fred Muvunyi (@MuvunyiF) September 15, 2021
Mali was plunged into conflict in 2012 when local Tuareg separatists, including the CMA which revolted in the north of the country with the support of jihadists.
The conflict spiralled, and Islamist violence has since spread to central Mali and neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
But in talks brokered in Algiers in 2015, several former rebel groups, including the CMA, signed a peace deal with Mali’s central government in a bid to stop the fighting.
Many see the deal as one of the few solutions to Mali’s intractable conflict. Many provisions have never been implemented, however.
Among other things, the accord provides for integrating former rebel groups into Mali’s army.
“The CMA believes that the priority for the stability of Mali is to move quickly towards the establishment of the reconstituted army,” the former rebel group stated.
It added that it “condemns and firmly opposes any use of militias, whatever their nature, and motive, and holds the Malian state fully responsible for what will happen if it does so”.
In recent years, Russian paramilitaries, security instructors, companies, and advisors have grown increasingly influential in Africa, particularly in the war-torn Central African Republic (CAR).
The Kremlin said on Wednesday there were no formal discussions on military cooperation with Mali.
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