Officially, it has no connection with Mali’s alleged negotiations with the Wagner group for the deployment of mercenaries in the country. But the delivery by Moscow of four helicopters to Bamako will not ease tensions with Paris.
Everything could appear very clear in the simplest of diplomatic worlds. France, officially present militarily in Mali at the request of the Sahelian state, is entitled to consider the partial or complete interruption of its intervention without being accused of “abandonment in the air”. Likewise, the Malian state, which today presents itself as free from endless political arrangements, is as legitimate to politely indicate the exit to French fatigues as to negotiate increased military collaboration.
Likewise, France, whose extra-hexagonal crossroads are subject to the validation of a national representation resulting from the ballot box, is legitimate to express an embarrassment to deal with a junta, even an incompatibility of exercise with any mercenarism that it would be. Likewise, sovereign and beset Mali, whatever the rugged nature of its current democratic course, is legitimate to call on private security agents …
In this chess game with officially defined rules, the positioning of each player’s pieces should clarify the courteous outcome of the game. As long as you are sure of the exact identity of the players facing each other. However, the childish simplicity of this theoretical diagram is crossed by interests of multiple natures, hollow diplomatic messages, pretenses between private and public actors, fool’s games and a populism that a 21st century presumed to be rational has never ceased. to bring to the skies.
While preparing for an Africa-France summit without an African head of state and when, on the continent, the Central African Prime Minister affirms that there is “nowhere” a contract between his country “and a Russian private security company ”, The Malian Minister of Defense received, on September 30, four Mi-171 helicopters provided by the Russian Federation, as well as weapons and ammunition. Antechamber to a deployment of the paramilitary group Wagner which would be synonymous with contempt for Western Europeans? Unexpected rapprochement with the authorities in Moscow?
There is no doubt that the Russia-Africa summit will give pride of place to African heads of state, elected or not …
Cold war in Africa?
Neither recourse to the private sector, nor haste, replies Colonel Sadio Camara, who specifies that the delivery of new Russian equipment is part of a public-public military cooperation agreement signed in 2019. The four new helicopters would have been paid for. through the Malian “national budget” and arms and ammunition would be offered by a “reliable”, “serious” and “fast” Russia. Deliveries which, according to observers specializing in security issues, should allow Russian companies to benefit from operational conditioning and maintenance contracts.
The provision of materials as a prologue to private after-sales services is a practice shared by many countries, including detractors of Moscow. But more than “win-win” deals from VRP states, the grumpy people point to a risk of the resurrection of the cold war on African ground. A field where the USSR at the time, which had no colony, supported certain liberation movements.
Wagner, not Wagner? Barkhane, more Barkhane? More or less stuck in the Sahelian sand, the pieces of the Malian chessboard should fade or emerge – it depends – by 2022, probably faster than the electoral calendar. And there is no doubt that the next Russia-Africa summit will give pride of place to the heads of state of the continent, elected or not …