Date: 15 February 2023 Author: Grzegorz Kuczyński

Russia Boosts Presence in Mali

The Malian junta appointed several pro-Russian figures to high-ranking military positions, indicating growing Russian influence over the Malian government. In addition, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov traveled to Bamako, the Malian capital, where he was awarded one of the highest Malian orders. All this points to the growing influence of Moscow in the African country.


Junta leader Assimi Goita replaced several of Mali’s top military leaders with pro-Russian figures in a mini purge on February 8. He notably appointed the Malian ambassador to Russia as chief of staff of the army and replaced Mali’s chief of staff of the national guard, who had significant French ties. Interestingly, the move came a day after Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s first visit to Mali. The top Russian diplomat was honored by Mali as Commander of the National Order of Mali––the third-highest distinction in this African country. He allegedly concluded a batch of new security agreements. Mali’s ruling junta said that it was expelling the head of the human rights division of MINUSMA, the UN mission there, giving him 48 hours to leave the country. The decision comes after a Malian rights activist last month denounced the security situation in the country in a speech to a UN gathering on January 31, and accused the regime’s new Russian military partners, or the shadowy private military company Wagner Group, of serious rights violations. The appointments and their timing indicate that Mali will likely expand its partnerships with Russia and Wagner Group. Russian-linked outlets in Mali also began an information operation calling for more Wagner bases in the country. The Malian junta could be planning to use increased Russian assistance in a northern Mali offensive. The Russian military group will allegedly play a crucial role in the operation. A government offensive yet would unlikely be more successful than previous failed government efforts to assert control over northern Mali amid its problems in the country’s south. With Russian mercenaries in Mali, the Malian junta will safeguard its rules rather than defeat jihadists in the country. As in the Central African Republic, where Wagner mercenaries failed to bring any breakthrough to the civil war but protected the incumbent president.

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