The Malian defense ministry released a statement on Tuesday confirming that the government is in talks with Wagner, a Russian private security group, to help the country to fight against jihadists in the northern parts of the country and also to help train the military in fighting against terrorism in the West African nation, according to a statement of the spokesman of the military.
“Mali intends to diversify its relationships in the medium term to ensure the security of the country. We haven’t signed anything with Wagner, but we are talking with everyone,” the spokesman told AFP News Agency on Tuesday confirming the deal.
The statement comes just hours after Florence Parly, the French Defence Minister, raised a concern about the deal and warned that the deal would greatly affect France’s influence in the nation and undermine the work France has done in the country.
The French Defence Minister was addressing a parliamentary commission in Paris on Tuesday, days after Reuters News Agency had reported the ongoing talks between the Malian government and the Russian private security company. He warned that France would be greatly affected by the deal.
“If the Malian authorities entered into a contract with Wagner, it would be extremely worrying and contradictory, incoherent with everything that we have done for years and we intend to do to support the countries of the Sahel region,” Florence Parly said
According to the proposed deal, the Malian government would have to pay six billion CFA francs monthly to the Wagner Group, which will deploy close to 1000 mercenaries to the northern parts of the country to help Malian soldiers fight Jihadists.
The relationship between the Malian and the French government has not been the best since the last military coup that ousted President Bah Ndaw and his Prime Minister.
In May, thousands of Malians stormed the streets in protest against the French role in their country and warned the French government not to interfere in their internal politics while waving the Russian and China flags.
The French government has about 5000 troops in Mali and has warned that they would withdraw all their forces should the Malian government not adhere.