BAMAKO (AFP): Mali’s ruling junta on Sunday bristled over warnings by We-stern and regional leaders not to hire “mercenaries” from private Russian security firm Wagner, saying its partnerships are its business.
Former colonial power France last week warned Bamako against such a deal following claims that the West African country’s ju-nta is close to hiring 1,000 paramilitaries to train its armed forces and to protect the top brass. Both France and Germany warned that such a deployment would call into question their military commitments in the poor Sahel country.
And the regional grouping ECOWAS condemned the alleged plan, without naming Wagner, warning it would lead to a “deterioration of the security situation” in Mali. In a statement Sunday, Mali’s foreign ministry said: “Regarding the intention ascribed to the Malian authorities to hire ‘mercenaries’, the transition government led by the military invokes the exercise of its sovereignty.”
Without naming any country or Wagner, it said it “would not allow any state to make its choices… and even less to decide which partners it can solicit.”
The junta slammed “ru-mours and hit pieces that a-re part of a smear campaign against our country and its leaders”. The international community, including France and ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States), have openly questioned whether the generals who overthrew elected president Boubacar Keita in August 2020 will respect a transition timetable calling for elections in February 2022.