The contract between Mali and Russia's Wagner Group stipulates that 1,000 Russian mercenaries will be deployed. Paris is trying to prevent it from being finalised.
Since the beginning of September, the Malian state – represented by Assimi Goïta (the president of the transition government) and Sadio Camara (his defence minister) – and a private military company linked to the Russian group Wagner have been waiting for a contract between them to be finalised. The document provides for the deployment of mercenaries to the country, in liaison with the Malian army, and with the protection of high-level figures.
According to several sources quoted by Reuters, once the deal goes through, the company linked to the Wagner group is to be paid 6bn CFA francs (€9.1m). One of the Reuters sources says 1,000 mercenaries will be deployed, while others give slightly lower figures.
For several months, envoys from the Wagner group have been lobbying the Malian transitional authorities – in particular, Camara, who visited Russia last August. Although Bamako signed a defence agreement with Russia in 2019, this is the first time that the Malian authorities are considering signing a contract with a Russian-based private military company.
Ironically, Thierry Burkhard (the French Armed Forces’ chief of staff) was visiting Mali as part of a Sahel tour at the same time that the contract was being discussed in early September in Bamako. He was not received by Camara, but rather by Oumar Diarra (his Malian counterpart) and General Sidiki Samaké (secretary-general of the ministry of defence and veterans).
According to our information, Wagner’s envoys had recently intensified pressure, to the point of further alerting French diplomatic officials and the army. A source close to the Elysée confirms that “an all-out offensive” has taken place in recent weeks. Reuters also reports that Paris was moved to action and is doing everything possible to prevent the contract from being finalised. France has even asked its US allies to put pressure on the Malian junta.
Bamako after Bangui
According to our sources, Wagner hopes to apply a deployment strategy in Mali that is similar to one used in the CAR since 2018. Furthermore, the company is linked to Bamako’s ministry of mines, which is headed by Lamine Seydou Traoré.
In Bangui, Russia’s security apparatus operates via two private companies: Sewa Security Services (for security) and Lobaye Invest. The latter is active in the Central African mining sector and has obtained concessions from the said state.