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Germany tells Mali to halt work with Russian mercenaries

April 13, 2022

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also made continued German support contingent upon holding fresh elections during a trip to the crisis-ridden state. The military junta has postponed elections for at least five years.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock answers questions standing alongside Mali's acting Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop
German Foreign Minister Baerbock pledged ongoing civilian support but threatened to end military cooperation with MaliImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Wednesday told leaders in Mali that Berlin's continued support would be contingent upon political reforms and warned of the country's cooperation with Russian mercenaries.

Baerbock, who is also traveling to neighboring Niger, met with interim President Assimi Goita — who came to power after two successive military coups in 2020 and 2021 — in the capital Bamako.

"It is clear to us that we urgently need ... a clear commitment to democratization and, above all, elections," Berlin's top diplomat said after the meeting.

Goita postponed elections for five years that were originally scheduled for February .

Baerbock also said the country desperately needed to fight corruption and judicial impunity.

Russian mercenaries in Mali a problem for Berlin and EU

Perhaps just as disturbing in Germany's eyes is Mali's suspected cooperation with Russian mercenaries from the infamous Wagner Group. European observers say soldiers from the paramilitary outfit with purported ties to President Vladimir Putin are now active in Mali as well as in Syria and Ukraine.

Addressing the situation, Baerbock said: "We cannot continue cooperation if there is not a clear distancing to Russian forces."

Currently, more than 1,300 German soldiers are stationed in Mali as part of two missions: 1,100 in the UN's MINUSMA peacekeeping mission and roughly 320 in the EUTM mission that trains Malian forces.

The mandates for both missions will expire in late May if Germany's parliament does not vote to renew them.

The recent withdrawal of French troops from Mali has put other EU countries under increasing pressure as the security situation in the region worsens amid a spate of military coups and rampant attacks by terrorist groups.

Mali seeks closer ties with Russia

Mali defends ties to Russia, China

Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop, called the security situation in the country "complex," and defended Mali's dependence on Russian and Chinese help as key to bringing security.

Both Moscow and Beijing have expanded their presence on the commodities-rich continent in exchange for military and development aid.

Still, Baerbock assured Goita and Diop that "cooperation with the people of Mali, with the civilian population, will continue."  

In Niger, the German foreign minister is expected to address the topics of climate and security.

js/rs (dpa, Reuters)

The cry of a Malian dancer