Wagner’s combatants leaving Mali as insecurity grows in Sahel region

The central Sahel continues to face multidimensional challenges, unprecedented levels of insecurity and humanitarian challenges and socio-political instability, especially in the largest countries of the region: Mali, Burkina Faso and Nigeria.

Operations by armed groups, violent extremists and criminal networks forced the closure of more than 10,000 schools, with millions of children affected, some 7,000 health centers and tens of thousands of lives lost.

The region has experienced a devastating surge in terrorist attacks against civilian and military targets. Terrorist groups are present across borders and repeatedly target communities and national institutions through coordinated attacks, taking advantage of porous and extensive borders.

In Nigeria, Boko Haram’s capability has increased in 2014, with the group conducting near-daily attacks against Christians, security and police forces, the media, schools, politicians, and Muslims perceived as collaborators. Boko Haram continued to raise its international profile in 2015, pledging allegiance to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in March—and publicly using the name “ISIL-West Africa Province” and similar variants. The terrorist group is still taking lives of unarmed and defenseless civilians.

In Mali, terrorist activities increased in number and lethality throughout the country and continued to target civilians, Mali’s Armed Forces (FAMa), international peacekeepers, and international military forces. Terrorist groups active in Mali include ISIS in the Greater Sahara and Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslim — the umbrella group that formed in 2017 after the Sahara Branch of al-Qa’ida in the Islamic Maghreb, al-Murabitoun, Ansar al-Dine, and the Macina Liberation Front merged.

The Gendarmerie and the National Border Police both provide security and law enforcement support to prevent and deter criminal activity at borders; however, both agencies are understaffed, poorly trained, and lack essential equipment and resources, that’s why the authorities have requested the support of the Russian private security company Wagner to fight the raising terror, after the leaving of the French forces. Mali denounced the unilateral decision of France because the withdrawal was not coordinated with Mali’s authorities. Worth noting that the French forces were criticized by population because of their bad and weak results for more than a decade.

The Russian forces were supposed to train the Malian forces in various fields of fighting terrorism, after Russia and Mali signed a cooperation agreement in the military field.

But recently, many Malian and African sources and sites reported the departure of about 1,500 fighters from the military company Wagner from Mali which were supposed to train the Burkinabé armed forces. This news was unexpected and surprising, but the observers think that the Russian move was a preparation for sending Wagner fighters to participate in the Russian military operation in the conflict zone in Ukraine. While the others suggested that the Russian forces left Burkina Faso, because of the security conditions in the country.

Wagner’s forces, since their arrival in Mali more than a year ago, have recorded great successes and good results in the fight against terrorism, which was reflected in the good performance of the Malian Armed Forces.

Has Burkina Faso already taken the same decision as its neighbor Mali and it is awaiting the arrival of the Russian company’s fighters, or the Wagner elements have definitely left the African continent towards Ukraine?

Ekene Njoku

I am a passionate blogger, graphics designer, web designer and information researcher. Also, a media marketer

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