Algerian president urges Mali to drop costly Wagner's services, invest in economy instead
Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune called on Mali's military council to drop the services of the Russian private military firm, Wagner Group, and instead invest in the economy, stressing that restoring peace in Mali should pass through Algeria.
"The money that this group [Wagner] costs would be more appropriate and useful if it was allocated for development in the Sahel region," said Tebboune in an interview with the French newspaper Le Figaro in its Friday edition.
According to US officials, the Malian government is paying US$10 million a month for Wagner's services, consisting primarily of security missions.
However, Mali's military council denies any deployment by the controversial Wagner group.
Last year, France's President Emmanuel Macron said he decided to pull out his troops after relations between France and Mali deteriorated in the wake of an August 2020 military coup.
Another coup occurred in Mali in May 2021, though it did not result in significant changes to the previous structure.
Macron has also referred to a suspected deal between the Malian regime and Russian private security firm Wagner that was a crucial factor in pushing Paris to withdraw its 2,400 troops.
Algeria, which shares 1,359 km-long borders with Mali, has been reportedly under 'terrorists attacks' coming from religious extremist groups based in the Sahel region.
In 2020, an Algerian soldier was killed in a car bomb attack in Timiaouine, in the south of the country on the border with Mali. Algerian authorities said "terrorists" were behind the operation.
However, Tebboune said terrorism is not what worries him the most. "We can defeat it. I am more worried about the fact that the Sahel region is drowning in misery. The solution there is 80% economic and 20% security," the Algerian president added.
Political tensions in Mali are spiked by a serious security crisis that has erupted since the outbreak of two separatist and extremist religious rebellions in the north of the country in 2012.
Last week, most of the Malian armed groups that signed the Algiers Peace Agreement in 2015, including the Coordination of Azawad Movements led by the Tuareg, announced the suspension of participation in the agreement, citing the military council's "continuous absence of political will" to implement its provisions.
The Algiers 2015 agreement led the separatist rebels to stop the fighting.
Meanwhile, religious extremist groups continued to fight with the Malian army spreading violence to the centre of the country as well as to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, according to AFP.
The presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda has also reportedly reached the Gulf of Guinea countries.
"The settlement of the situation clearly passes through Algeria. If we had been helped to work on implementing the Algiers Agreement of 2015 in order to calm this region, this would not have been the case," said Algerian President
"To restore peace, the people of northern Mali must be integrated into the financial institutions," he concluded.
The Wagner group, with which Moscow denies any link, provides maintenance services, military equipment and training in the countries where they are deployed, usually with the status of "instructors."
Wagner personnel have been reported in several conflict-torn states such as Mali and the Central African Republic as well as in Syria and Libya.
Last year, the United Nations urged states to end any connections with private forces, including Wagner Group, because it "had been committing systemic and grave human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, torture, disappearances and summary execution."