Mali’s Prime Minister Choguel Maiga attends an interview with AFP on September 26, 2021 in New York.InternationalIndiaAfricaMuhammad OsmanWriter/EditorRussian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Mali in February to discuss bilateral economic relations, security and fighting terrorism, as well as to invite the Malian president to the second Russia-Africa Summit scheduled for July. This visit has been viewed by observers as a sign of Mali’s growing confidence in Russia.Bamako sees Moscow as a reliable partner, Mali’s Prime Minister of Transition Choguel Kokalla Maiga said in an interview with Al Jazeera on Tuesday. The statement came as Mali is seeking to strengthen its economic and security relations with various partners in the context of the war against terrorism.Maiga stressed that Russia defends the interests of his country and that the security picture has changed on the ground due to cooperation with Moscow, arguing that before Malian-Russian cooperation in fighting terrorism, Muslims were being killed during prayer and military bases were being targeted in the desert.
"We consider Russia a reliable partner," Maiga said. "However, this is not our only partner, we have others."
In late 2022, in connection to the situation in Mali and Bamako’s growing cooperation with Moscow at a time when a wave of anti-French protests has swept the region, French President Emmanuel Macron accused Russia of pursuing a “predatory project” in the West African country.In the wake of the French military pullout from Mali in August 2022, the Malian transitional government accused Paris of supporting terrorist groups inside the West African country by providing them with intelligence, arms and ammunition instead of fighting them. PM Maiga told Sputnik in late February that Mali expects to present the UN Security Council with evidence of Paris’s support for armed groups in the country.Maiga insisted that such actions are extraneous things for the Malian people, in an indirect reference to the fact that there was an unnamed third party that was supporting such terrorist attacks.Commenting on the relations between Mali and France, the prime minister noted that his country has not refused to cooperate with Paris, but will not allow the French to impose their will on Bamako.
"[The French] wanted to impose their will on us and tell us what to do and what to think. We, in turn, tell them that this era has passed, [now] we choose our partners, we choose what to do," explained Maiga during the Tuesday interview.
According to him, Paris expected that Malians would “beg” France to keep its troops in Mali, but Bamako “rejected the French dictate,” after which Paris “decided to withdraw from the cooperation agreements and withdraw its forces” from Malian territory.Africa’Profound Humility’: France to ‘Reorganize’ Military Presence in Africa After Partial Pullout28 February, 11:09 GMTThe Malian prime minister pointed out that his country has principles that govern its cooperation with other nations including: respecting Mali’s sovereignty and not imposing dictations; Mali’s freedom of choice in making its sovereign decision; and the interest of the Malian people.In February, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Mali and held talks with his Malaysian counterpart Abdoulaye Diop and Interim President Assimi Goita. They discussed economic relations, cooperation for enhancing security and countering terrorism, as well as Mali’s participation in the Russia-Africa Summit.As Diop said at the time, Bamako does not intend to “justify” its choice of Moscow as a partner and does not support the concept of sanctions against any country. Mali, according to him, will work with Russia, as well as with other partners, and act taking into account “the interests of the Malians themselves in all decisions taken.”Since 2011, the Sahel region, where Mali is located, has been highly destabilized by terrorist and bandit activities, mainly carried out by terrorist groups linked to Daesh* and Al-Qaeda*. In 2014, France launched the so-called Operation Barkhane as a follow-up to the 2013 Operation Serval in Sahel under the pretext of fighting terrorism. In August 2022, however, Malian authorities demanded that French troops leave Mali and just several months later, Paris put an end to the Barkhane operation.As experts earlier told Sputnik, the West African country is of interest to France “primarily from the point of view of control over uranium deposits” and military operations there were part of the former metropolis’ efforts to maintain this control.