European Union suspends military training after Moura massacre

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Malian soldiers during a training session with a soldier from the European Union Training Mission (EUTM), in the Sévaré camp, near Mopti, Mali, in March 2021.

The European Union (EU) had spent months trying to find a solution to maintain a certain presence in the Malidespite the decision of the national authorities to appeal to the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, which arrived in the country at the end of December.

The Twenty-Seven ultimately decided to suspend European training missions for the Malian Army and National Guard, while advisory and educational activities continued. ” We stopped “ train Soldiers, “but we stayed” in Mali, summarized on Monday, April 11, Josep Borrell, head of European diplomacy, on the occasion of a Council of Foreign Affairs Ministers of the Union.

Also read: The European Union stops its military training in Mali, but stays in the Sahel

Meeting in Luxembourg, they took note of this decision adopted last week by the ambassadors of the Twenty-seven to the EU. A consensus that has struggled to emerge. Some countries, mainly France, wanted to interrupt the two missions whose objective, for EUTM Mali, is to rebuild the Malian armed forces and, for EUCAP Sahel Mali, to reinforce the internal security forces.

Others, like Italy, Germany, Spain, Belgium or the Czech Republic, wanted to stay or keep a minimum activities in the country, so as not to leave the field open to Russia. An issue that has become crucial at a time when Moscow is challenging global geopolitical balances with the war launched in Ukraine.

Since April 2, Malian soldiers and Wagner mercenaries have been accused of carrying out a massacre in Moura, in the center of the country. According to Human Rights Watch, around 300 civilians, including some suspected jihadists, were executed there between March 27 and 31.

multiplication of abuses

In this context, the training of Malian forces has become inconceivable for Europe. Some of these activities had been de facto suspended as of March by the mission commanders, pending a political decision by the Union. “We had to quickly avoid any risk” see soldiers trained by Europeans committing “human rights violations”explains a diplomat.

The EU had asked the Malian authorities to commit to avoiding any cooperation between Wagner and the troops supervised by the European missions. In its response, the ruling junta in Bamako advocated their retention, a signal seen as positive in Brussels. But the guarantees offered were judged “insufficient”. However, Europe will continue to teach Malian soldiers “laws of war ». “The military must know that war has laws and rules of the game”explained Josep Borrell on Monday

Also read: Article reserved for our subscribers “They did not distinguish between the jihadists and the others”: the Malian army is again accused of abuses

Europeans insist that this suspension of training activity is ” temporary “ Y “reversible”. Plus “the observation on the evolution of the situation is quite pessimistic”, confesses a diplomat, in the face of the multiplication of abuses and the refusal of the Malian junta to organize a return to the polls.

Questions are even hanging over the United Nations mission in Mali, Minusma, whose investigation in Moura is blocked by Bamako. “Are we going to let him go to the field to check what happened? Or will Minusma continue to be locked up in her barracks? If that’s why it’s not worth staying there “Mr. Borrell explained. German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock will travel to Mali this week to take stock as Berlin plans to withdraw its soldiers from the country.

In any case, the EU wants to remain present in the Sahel, still plagued by jihadist threats, and deploy more in neighboring countries. “But Burkina Faso has just suffered a coup and Niger is not overly enthusiastic about the idea of ​​a reinforced foreign presence”, says a diplomat. For their part, the Europeans must redefine their strategy regarding this key region, in the context of the withdrawal of the French force “Barkhane” and the European task force “Takuba”, experienced as a failure.

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