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European Union suspends military training after Moura . massacre

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Malian soldiers during a training session with a soldier from the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), at Sévaré camp, near Mopti, Mali, in March 2021.

The European Union (EU) has been trying for months to find a solution to maintain a certain presence in the European Union Malidespite the decision by the national authorities to appeal to the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, which arrived in the country at the end of December.

The Twenty-seven finally decided to suspend the European training missions of the Malian Army and National Guard, while continuing the activities of advice and education. “We stop” to train soldiers, “but we stay” in Mali, summarized Monday 11 April Josep Borrell, Head of European Diplomacy, on the occasion of a Council of Foreign Ministers of the Union.

Also read: The European Union ends its military training in Mali, but remains in the Sahel

At their meeting in Luxembourg, they took note of this decision adopted last week by the Ambassadors of the Twenty-seven to the EU. A consensus that has struggled to achieve. Some countries, mainly France, wanted to interrupt the two missions which, for EUTM Mali, aim to rebuild the Malian armed forces and, for EUCAP Sahel Mali, to strengthen internal security forces.

Others, such as Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium or the Czech Republic, wanted to stay or keep at least activities in the country, so as not to leave the field open to Russia. An issue that has become crucial at a time when Moscow is challenging global geopolitical balances with the war launched in Ukraine.

Since April 2, Malian soldiers and Wagner’s mercenaries have been accused of committing a massacre in Moura, in the center of the country. According to Human Rights Watch, nearly 300 civilians were executed there between March 27 and 31, including some suspected jihadists.

Multiplication of abuses

In this context, the training of Malian troops has become unthinkable for Europe. Some of these activities were de facto suspended from March by the mission commanders, pending a political decision by the Union. “We had to avoid any risk quickly” to see soldiers trained by Europeans commit “human rights violations”explains a diplomat.

The EU had asked the Malian authorities to commit themselves to avoiding any cooperation between Wagner and the troops under the control of the European missions. In its response, the ruling junta in Bamako pleaded for enforcement, a sign that is seen as positive in Brussels. But the guarantees offered were assessed “inadequate”† However, Europe will continue to educate Malian soldiers “the laws of war” “The military needs to know that war has laws and rules of the game”explained Josep Borrell on Monday

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers “They did not distinguish between the jihadists and the others”: Malian army again accused of abuses

Europeans insist that this suspension of training activities “temporary” and “reversible”† But “the observation of the evolution of the situation is rather pessimistic”, entrusts a diplomat, in view of the multiplication of the abuse and the refusal of the Malian junta to organize the return to the polls.

There are even questions about the United Nations mission in Mali, the Minusma, whose investigation in Moura is blocked by Bamako. “Are we going to let her go to the field and see what happened? Or will the Minusma remain locked up in his barracks? If that’s why it’s not worth staying there”Mr. Borrell explained. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Mali this week to take stock as Berlin plans to withdraw its soldiers from the country.

In any case, the EU wants to remain present in the Sahel, still ravaged by jihadist threats, and to deploy more in neighboring countries. “But Burkina Faso has just undergone a coup and Niger is not over-enthusiastic at the idea of ​​a reinforced foreign presence”a diplomat notes. The Europeans, for their part, need to redefine their strategy regarding this key region, in the context of the withdrawal of the French Force “Barkhane” and the European Task Force “Takuba”, which is perceived as a failure.

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