Mali’s military-appointed prime minister has lashed out at France and the United Nations in a grievance-filled address over his nation’s deteriorating security situation while praising the “exemplary” cooperation with Russia.
Addressing the 77th session of the UN General Assembly on Saturday, Abdoulaye Maiga slammed what he called France’s “unilateral decision” to relocate its remaining troops to neighbouring Niger amid deteriorating relations with Mali’s two-time coup leader Assimi Goita.
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While it was Goita and his allies who overthrew a democratically elected president by military force two years ago, Mali’s prime minister repeatedly referred to a “French junta” throughout his 30-minute speech.
“Move on from the colonial past and hear the anger, the frustration, the rejection that is coming up from the African cities and countryside, and understand that this movement is inexorable,” Maiga, who was appointed prime minister last month, said.
“Your intimidations and subversive actions have only swelled the ranks of Africans concerned with preserving their dignity,” he added.
The Malian prime minister also offered a grim assessment of the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, while openly praising the “exemplary and fruitful cooperation between Mali and Russia” and the influence of mercenaries from the Wagner Group.
“We must recognise that nearly 10 years after its establishment, the objectives for which MINUSMA was deployed in Mali have not been achieved,” Maiga said. “This is despite numerous Security Council resolutions.”
France intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, leading an effort to remove armed groups from the control of the northern Malian towns they had overtaken. Over the past nine years, Paris had continued its presence in a bid to stabilise the country amid repeated attacks by armed groups.
The French departure in August raised new concerns about whether those fighters will regain territory with security responsibilities now falling to the Malian military and UN peacekeepers.
The Wagner Group, a Russian network providing fighters for hire, has been allowed to operate in Mali despite evidence collected by the UN pointing to their involvement in mass summary executions, arbitrary detentions, torture, and forced disappearances in the Central African Republic.
The Malian prime minister also criticised UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for his recent comments on the standoff between Mali and Ivory Coast over 46 detained Ivorian soldiers.
“Since friendship is based on sincerity, I would like to express my deep disagreement with your recent media appearance, in which you took a position and expressed yourself on the case of the 46 Ivorian mercenaries,” he said in comments aimed at Guterres.
The nature of the offences in the case “does not fall within the remit of the secretary-general of the United Nations”, he added.
Maiga reiterated claims that the soldiers were sent to Mali as mercenaries, which the Ivorian government has vigorously denied. Ivory Coast says the soldiers were to provide security for a company contracted by the UN, but Maiga maintained on Saturday that there is “no link between the 46 and the United Nations”.
Three female Ivorian soldiers have been released as a “humanitarian gesture”, but there have been no updates about the others.