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    Ivorian-Malian Political Tensions – A 6 Month Outlook

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    The military government of Mali arrested 49 troops from the Ivory Coast in July. The junta accused the troops of a “conspiracy to harm state security”, despite their participation in the UN-led peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA). This had led to a significant deterioration in relations between Mali and the Ivory Coast. The military junta grew closer to Russia in the last few years and is relying on the presence of Wagner mercenaries as opposed to UN-backed peacekeepers to maintain order. 

    KJ-1: It is highly unlikely that Ivorian-Malian relations will improve in the next 6 months.

    • Mali detained 49 Ivorian soldiers on 10 July after their arrival at the airport in Bamako [source]. Mali believes that the soldiers are mercenaries [source]. 
    • Col. Assim Goïta, head of the military junta, refused to allow any negotiations [source]. 
    • He claims that the Ivory Coast harbours Malian citizens wanted by Bamako. These individuals are possibly Karim Keïta, son of the former president, and former Defense and Foreign Minister Hubert Coulibaly [source]. 
    • The Ivory Coast requested a summit of ECOWAS nations to resolve the issue. Mali labelled the request as “blackmail” [source].
    • In an effort mediated by Togolese Foreign Minister Robert Dusse, Mali released 3 female soldiers. 47 remain in custody [source]. 
    • Mali officially arraigned the remaining 47 soldiers in August, with serious charges of conspiracy and arms trafficking [source]. 
    • Relations between the Ivory Coast and Mali were previously under pressure over Mali’s timeframe for return to civilian rule, and ECOWAS imposed sanctions on the issue [source].
    • Mali initially set a date in 2024 for elections [source]. The junta has now extended that deadline to 2026 [source].

    KJ-2: It is likely that Wagner PMC mercenaries will increasingly replace UN peacekeepers in the next 6 months.

    • Mali expelled Olivier Salgado, the spokesman for MINUSMA after he contradicted the military junta’s claims about the Ivorian soldiers [source]. 
    • Mali announced it is leaving the G5 Sahel alliance in June [source]. 
    • Mali categorically suspended all future UN troop rotations in Mali [source].
    • Since January, Mali has expelled the French Ambassador, and Danish troops, and closed its airspace to western nations [source].
    • The junta claims it halted a counter-coup in May led by an unspecified western nation, signalling an increased level of distrust for western security partners [source].
    • Wagner mercenaries attempted to stage mass graves in Gossi in order to blame French troops who were previously stationed there [source].
    • Satellite imagery shows a new Wagner PMC operating base at the airport in Bamako. Wagner mercenaries flew in on a RAF Tu-154 (registration number RA-85042) [source].
    • Wagner representatives reportedly found the mining concessions offered to them insufficient [source]. Mines in northern Mali are largely controlled by the Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad who are opposed to Wagner [source]. 
    • As such, Wagner receives a $10 million monthly stipend from the government [source]. 
    • Wagner has expanded its operations in central Mali near Mopti and in areas traditionally occupied by Jama’at Nusrat al-Islam wal-Muslimin (JNIM) [source].
    • Wagner forces are expanding operations in the southern part of the country as well as near the border with Burkina Faso [source].
    • Russia delivered 2 Su-25s and 1 L-39 jets to Mali as well as several attack helicopters in August [source].
    • Mali’s Su-25 aircraft are likely operated by Wagner PMC operators [source].
    • Wagner also delivered Orlan-10 UAVs to Mali this year and currently operates the reconnaissance drones on behalf of Mali [source].

    KJ-3: It is highly likely that rates of civilian casualties will increase in the next 6 months.

    • Armed extremists are nearing Bamako, prompting the US Embassy to issue an urgent warning about the deteriorating situation [source]. 
    • At least 18 people died in insurgent attacks in June near Mopti, Sokolo and Kalumba [source]. 
    • A military base in Tessit came under attack by insurgents. This resulted in the deaths of at least 4 civilians [source]. 
    • Wagner mercenaries killed nearly 500 civilians from December 2021 to July 2022. Hundreds were massacred in Moura [sourced]. 
    • Wagner mercenaries first used booby traps in May near a village in the Mopti region [source].
    • Fulani tribesmen are deliberately targeted by Wagner due to the perception that Fulani men are linked with JNIM [source].
    • Fighting between the Islamic State – Sahel Province and Tuareg militants resulted in several hundred civilian casualties in March [source].
    • After a Wagner mercenary was killed by an IED in Hombori in April, Wagner operators opened fire on a market in retaliation. It is not clear how many were killed [source]. 
    • The Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad announced it would oppose any encroachment by Wagner into northern Mali, potentially paving the way for additional violence [source]. 

    Intelligence Cut-Off Date 28 September 2022

    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith
    Alec Smith is a graduate of the MSC International Relations program of the University of Aberdeen and holds an LLB in Global Law from Tilburg University.

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