The European bloc is involved in two training missions in Mali – EUTM and EUCAP – to train soldiers and police.
The European Union has decided to suspend important military training programs in Mali, as ties between Western powers and the West African country’s transitional military government have soured.
Speaking at a ministerial meeting on Monday, the EU’s top diplomat Josep Borrell cited the presence of Russian-allied forces in the country, as well as reports of human rights abuses by Malian troops and foreign fighters, among the reasons for the decision. .
“We’re stopping training missions for [Malian] Armed Forces and the National Guard,” Borrell said.
He added that developments in the country “forced us to see that non-intervention by the Wagner Group was not sufficiently guaranteed,” he said, adding that it was responsible for “some very serious incidents that resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of people.” In Mali in recent times”.
The Russian private military organization has been accused by Westerners of acting impunity in the country. It is also an accusation that has in the past been directed at French troops in the Sahel.
The European Union’s decision comes after Human Rights Watch released a report on the alleged killing of 300 people from the city of Moura in a military operation by Malian forces with foreign fighters. The Malian army, which had previously said about 200 “terrorists” were killed in the operation, said it had launched an investigation.
“The Sahel remains a priority. We are not abandoning the Sahel, far from it. We want to be even more committed to that region,” Borrell said, suggesting that other forms of training be continued. could.
The European Union is involved in two training missions in Mali. The first one – the EU Training Mission – had more than 1,000 members from 25 European countries, who were training Malian troops by 2024, according to its website. Second, the EU Capacity Building Mission (EUCAP) focused on police coaching, which expires next year.
Alain Antille, director of the Center for Sub-Saharan Africa at the French Institute of International Relations, said the move did not have serious security implications. “It is better if the soldiers are not trained, but it is not as if the EU has withdrawn a battalion,” he said.
“From a diplomatic standpoint, however, we can say that the EU is taking its distance in a very visible way and its a warning that cooperation is at a standstill,” Entil said. “We have to interpret this announcement as a political warning to the Mali government,” he said.
Entil explained that this could also be the prelude to a new European approach in future participation in the UN mission in Mali (Minusma).
MINUSMA is supporting local forces in countering the armed group insurgency, maintaining more than 13,000 soldiers and 1,920 police personnel. But the presence of Western countries in Mali has been questioned ever since French troops pulled out of the country in February.
Relations between France and Mali reached a new low after Malian forces twice seized power in August 2020 and May 2021.
Since then, European allies involved in MINUSMA have been considering their next steps as the lack of French security could expose more UN troops on the ground.
On Tuesday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Barbock visited troops in the northern city of Gao, before deciding to expand Germany’s presence in Mali. More than 300 German troops are stationed as part of the EUTM, and 1,100 are stationed in Minusma.
Before his departure, Bairbock said the Malian government had “built a great deal of international confidence in recent months, at least by dragging the democratic transition and intensifying military cooperation with Moscow”.
“Just saying ‘keep it up’ now would be misleading in my view,” she said.