France worried about deployment of Russian Wagner paramilitaries in Mali

French authorities on Tuesday expressed concern about the contingency of deploying paramilitaries of the private Russian company Wagner in Mali, warning that such a deployment could prompt the withdrawal of French troops, who have been fighting jihadist groups there for eight years.

News surfaced that Bamako had been in talks with the Wagner company for the sending of its men to Mali.

An involvement of the Russian Wagner company in Mali would be “incompatible” with the maintenance of a French force, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian warned Tuesday before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly.

“It is absolutely irreconcilable with our presence” and “incompatible with the action of Mali’s Sahelian and international partners”, he insisted, stressing that Wagner’s paramilitaries “have distinguished themselves in the past, particularly in Syria and the Central African Republic, with exactions, predations and violations of all kinds…They cannot be part of any solution.”

French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly had previously reacted before the National Defense Committee of the Assembly saying that “if the Malian authorities were to enter into a contract with the Wagner company, it would be extremely worrying and contradictory, inconsistent” with France’s action in the Sahel.

According to French sources close to the matter, the junta in power in Bamako is studying the possibility of concluding a contract with Wagner on the deployment of a thousand Russian paramilitaries in Mali in return for funds, to train its armed forces and ensure the protection of its leaders. According to West African security sources, mining considerations are being discussed. These sources confirmed information revealed by Reuters.

When contacted by the media, the Malian Ministry of Defense admitted to holding talks with the Russian company. Mali now intends to diversify its relations and in the medium term to ensure the security of the country.

According to the Defense Ministry, Mali has not signed anything with Wagner, but is discussing with everyone.

If the Wagner scenario were to materialize, a rapid departure of French troops from Mali to neighboring Niger would be studied, according to French sources.

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