Russia is increasing its influence in Africa

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, has promised that his country will keep sending military aid to Mali, which has been fighting a terrorist uprising since 2012.

Even though Russia has been involved in West Africa for a long time and has been getting more involved, its goal is to help its allies as the war in Ukraine drags on.

Moscow wants to support West African governments militarily in their fight against Islamist extremists, according to Mr. Lavrov, who is on a two-day visit to Mali.

“We no longer need to defend our choice of partner.” Mali has called on Russia to come here and respond effectively to our strategic needs.  During a joint press conference with his Russian colleague, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said:

Fighters from the Wagner Group have been in Mali for more than a year, but the government has never said this out loud.

The Islamist danger has persisted for ten years, yet evidence suggests that they have not fared any better than other forces in dealing with it, and security may even have gotten worse.

Acled Info, an organization that tracks crises, says that the number of civilians killed by violence in 2017 was more than double what it was in 2016.

Moscow exalted

Mali’s military junta, on the other hand, has called reports that the country’s security is getting worse “Fake news.”

Instead, it has praised Moscow for arming the Malian military and sending Bamako large amounts of military equipment over and over again since August 2020, when the army took power.

Sukhoi fighter jets, as well as combat and surveillance helicopters, are some of these.

Demonstrators in Mali last year showed their support for Russia and its President Vladimir Putin

“We have accomplished more in terms of military success in the last two years than in previous decades combined.” “The entire country is proud of our weaponry.”  Col. Assimi Gota, the interim president of Mali, stated as much in a speech given last month on Army Day. Although he could not provide any specific examples, he said that people had been able to return to their homes.

But after France and its European allies worked for ten years to help Mali fight the jihadists, the presence of Russian mercenaries quickly ended Mali’s efforts.

Wagner was sent out because people were losing faith in French soldiers, even though they had made a lot of progress against insurgents since they were first sent there in 2013.

With the expected withdrawal of more than 3,000 troops from Germany, the UK, Ivory Coast, and Benin, the UN peacekeeping force (Minusma), which has about 18,000 people, might not be able to protect civilians as well.

Militant activity is moving steadily south toward the Gulf of Guinea, but attacks by the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda have moved into the neighboring countries of Burkina Faso and Niger over time.

Social media achievement

Wagner is trying to reach out to Burkina Faso, which had two military coups in 2022, and maybe even the Ivory Coast, because their work in Mali changed people’s minds.

But there have been questions about the tactics used by the Wagner Group troops, and the UN has asked for an investigation into alleged war crimes by mercenaries and Malian forces, which the Malian government has always denied.

During the joint counterinsurgency operations called Keletigui, which began in December 2021, rights groups have found evidence of sexual assaults, killings without due process, and torture.

Based on an analysis of data from Acled, more civilians died in these operations in 2022 than militants.

At least 700 people were killed in mercenary-related incidents, most of which took place in Mali’s unstable central regions.

One of the biggest death tolls was recorded in March 2022, when counterinsurgency operations in the central town of Moura claimed the lives of at least 300 people over the course of a week.

Survivors told Human Rights Watch that Malian soldiers and “white soldiers speaking in a strange language” killed a lot of men quickly.

The army said that this was not true and that Russian trainers and military equipment had made its forces stronger.

The Wagner Group, which the US claimed was hired at a cost of $10 million (£8.3 million) per month, has not made any statements about its operations in Mali.

Instead, mercenary propaganda has lied about how good they are at war, especially in Mali, to hurt France and the West.

When pro-Wagner comments were shared by groups in Mali that have organized protests calling for more cooperation with Moscow, they got some attention from the public. This has been widely disseminated on social media.

The Wagner Group’s founder, Yevgeny Prigozhin, praised the propaganda tactics, referring to them as “the new period of decolonization” by exploiting long-held mistrust of the former colonial power France.

Forced to conceal

Some people are worried about their safety because of attacks on people and groups that look into Russia’s influence and Wagner operations.

In March, RFI and France 24 were told they couldn’t broadcast in Mali because they had reported on alleged crimes by Wagner and the Mali army. The administration said that they were charged with “sowing discord and blaming Mali’s instability on ethnic differences.”

Pro-junta activists said that activist Aminata Dicko was being disloyal when she told the UN Security Council about supposed crimes by the army and Wagner mercenaries. This forced her to go into hiding last week.

Later, the junta fired the head of human rights at Minusma because it was said that he had worked with Ms. Dicko over the weekend. Even though the government has praised military successes, the number of violent deaths rose from 2021 to 2022, from 1,913 to 4,803.

Last month, the Mali Ministry of Health and Social Development said that the militant conflict had caused a lot of people to leave the country, so humanitarian needs had grown by 17% since 2022.

Also, Wagner and the Mali army’s claims of more civilian deaths have given terrorist groups a reason to start retaliatory attacks and recruit more people.

In almost one-third of JNIM, an al-Qaeda group, propaganda statements that year, the Wagner Group was named as a target, or their presence was used to justify operations against the army.

Rivals with ties to IS also claimed to have killed 15 mercenaries and shot down a Wagner Group drone.

Wagner, Russian, and these reservations notwithstanding, it appears that aid to Mali will continue.

 as well as the Gulf of Guinea coastal states,” which may have been more important because it suggested that Russia could help other countries in the area that were facing a similar threat from jihadists.

It is a bond that can only grow amid Russia’s isolation on the world stage as a result of its invasion of Ukraine.

Related Posts