10th Dec 2023

EU blacklists Mali's prime minister

  • The EU has two military training missions in Mali (Photo:
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The EU has blacklisted Mali's prime minister as it struggles to maintain influence in the strategic and mineral-rich Sahel region in West Africa.

The bloc imposed a travel ban and an asset-freeze on prime minister Choguel Maïga on Friday (4 February), saying that "despite his previous harsh criticism of the militarisation of the transition, he soon became a zealous advocate of the Malian junta".

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Maïga also "decided to ignore the previously adopted chronogram [schedule] of reform and elections" by agreeing to postpone the presidential and parliamentary vote, the EU said.

Mali's latest putsch took place in May last year, when armed forces captured president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and installed a lieutenant-colonel, Assimi Goïta, in his place.

The junta had promised to organise elections for 27 February, but later postponed that to late 2025 - triggering the EU measures, as well as more far-reaching ones by the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

The EU blacklist includes Malick Diaw, the president of the National Transitional Council (CNT), a body created to normalise the country after an earlier coup in 2020.

The EU called Diaw "a key member of colonel Assimi Goïta's inner circle" and it said the CNT had adopted "draft amnesty laws" that absolved the putsch leaders of any wrongdoing.

The EU blacklist also includes colonel-major Ismaël Wagué, the junta's minister for reconciliation, and Ibrahim Ikassa Maïga, its minister of refoundation.

And it includes Adama Ben Diarra, "one of the young leaders of the M5-RFP (Mouvement du 5 Juin-Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques), a heterogeneous coalition of parties and associations that played a key role in the overthrow of president Keita".

The EU said all five men being blacklisted were "responsible for threatening the peace, security or stability of Mali".

It noted that Ben Diarra was also "the leader of Yéréwolo, one of the most vocal pro-Russia movements" in Mali.

That mention of Russia by the EU comes after the junta signed a contract with Wagner, a Kremlin-linked mercenary group, which has already seen several hundred Russian fighters pour into the country.

The EU currently has two military training and advisory missions in Mali - EUTM Mali and EUCAP Sahel Mali - designed to help the country fight a jihadist insurgency in the region.

EU states also have soldiers in the so-called Takuba and Minusma international forces in the Sahel.

But the Malian junta has been drawn into working more closely with the Russian Wagner group - ostensibly to help fend off jihadists.

The EU blacklist omitted Goïta, the coup leader, as well as his foreign and defence ministers, in order to maintain dialogue with the regime.

But it remains to be seen how Goïta reacts to the new EU measures.

Last week, he expelled France's ambassador to Bamako on grounds the French foreign minister had made "hostile and outrageous" remarks against his authorities.

Goïta also recently kicked out Danish special-forces soldiers linked to the Takuba mission, claiming that Denmark had failed to properly obtain permission to deploy its soldiers on his territory.

The Mali coup was followed by one in Burkina Faso last week and a failed one in Guinea-Bissau this week, in what the Ecowas chairman, Nana Akufo-Addo, called a "dangerous trend" at the start of an Ecowas summit in Ghana on Thursday, according to French broadcaster France24.

"This summit will focus on the emerging threats in our region that stem from the military's interference in Mali and its contagious influence in Guinea and Burkina Faso," Akufo-Addo said.

Macron pledges troops in Niger after Mali exodus

The pullout from Mali raises fresh doubts about European military resolve. But Macron said troops would return to fight jihadists in the region from bases in Niger and Nigeria.


EU vs Wagner paramilitaries: a view from the ground in Mali

Mali has kicked out European forces. Instead, the Russians, and their Wagner paramilitaries are welcomed in. What can we learn from it? What do Mali's pro-Russian civil society actors themselves say? What drives the choice to invite Russia in?

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