After operating in Mali as part of the United Nations peacekeeping and stabilization mission (MINUSMA) for more than a decade, the German government has decided to gradually withdraw the Bundeswehr (German Army) from the country. On Tuesday, November 22, the German Minister of Defense, Christine Lambrecht, announced that Germany’s participation in the United Nations mission will come to a complete and final end by May 2024 under a mostly streamlined plan.
According to her, the military junta governing this African nation intentionally obstructs the operation of the UN mission while depending on “Russian soldiers” (in reference to Wagner Group). Although gathering military intelligence is the core job of the Bundeswehr, the authorities in Mali have stopped allowing German surveillance drones to operate in the country’s airspace. Lambrecht contends that the actions of the Malian government are connected to the presence of mercenaries from the Russian Federation, and he uses this connection to support his argument.
Wagner Group is said to be a Russian private military organization that has purportedly worked in several countries worldwide, including Ukraine, Syria, and Libya, as well as several African nations, including Mali and the Central African Republic. The wide-ranging sanctions that Western governments have imposed on Russia have singled out this organization as a target. Russia has denied having any affiliation with the group.
Germany is the third country to announce its exit from Mali. Earlier, the United Kingdom announced that it would quickly end its participation in the UN mission. This month, According to James Heappey, the Minister for the British Armed Forces, the fact that there have been two coups in Mali in the past three years has “undermined” international efforts to keep the peace.
This year, France announced its withdrawal from the country and was mired in controversy after discovering mass graves 3.6 km from the base they occupied.
Wagner Group’s influence in Africa
The soldiers of the Malian army “often participated in hostilities along with Russian forces, while, presumably, it came to human rights violations,” which causes one to wonder “why surveillance is prohibited over certain regions of what happened there,” according to a quote from the German defence minister provided by the AFP agency.
Germany aims to strengthen its support for the neighbouring country of Niger, the authorities of which have stated that they are unwilling to deal with Russian mercenaries concurrently with the withdrawal of the Bundeswehr from Mali.
Troubles for UN Mission in Mali
Since 2012, Mali has been struggling against increased violence that militants are orchestrating in the country’s northern and central regions. These attacks target civilians and military personnel alike. A resolution to establish a Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was approved by the United Nations Security Council in 2013. The mission’s purpose is to support political processes within the country and carry out duties related to security. In 2014, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) peacekeeping force started deploying in the country, which was experiencing a great deal of unrest at the time.
The UK, France and Germany have cited the Wagner Group as one of the reasons for withdrawal from Mali. Last month, the United States accused Russia of exploiting the natural resources of Africa. The US has its Wagner-like groups, CACI and Academi being the most prominent, and are called private military firms.
The United Nations mission’s avowed objective is to provide stability to the situation in the country and safeguard the populace from jihadist formations; however, it is impossible to say that this objective has been met. Since the military coup in 2021, Mali has been ruled by a military junta led by transitional President Colonel Assimi Goïta. Goïta has developed close ties with Russia and utilizes the services of Wagner PMC, whose fighters are referred to as “military consultants” in Mali. Wagner PMC has established close ties with Russia and utilizes the services of Wagner PMC. Christine Lambrecht emphasized that the role of the Bundeswehr should not be permanently terminated until after the scheduled elections in the country, which are set to take place in February 2024.
It is impossible to say with certainty that a Russian group is completely to blame for the current predicament in this country and some other African countries. In Africa, anti-colonial emotions directed toward the West have contributed to widespread population support for the Russian group. The Russian flag is often visible in anti-West demonstrations in some countries in Africa.
There is also no compelling evidence that Bamako and the Wagner Group, which Russia supports, have reached any official agreement. Despite this, there have been an increasing number of reports concerning the presence of mercenaries. Wagner mercenaries have been categorically ruled out by Mali’s government, even though the country has acknowledged the presence of Russian military instructors. The United States military claims that hundreds of Wagner Group mercenaries are already active inside Mali and that the government of Mali pays them a monthly stipend of ten million dollars.
The transitional authorities in Bamako are moving more and further away from their partners in the EU, particularly France, which played a significant role in the country’s colonial past.