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Peace Education: An Instrument for Non-Violence in Africa

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15 year-old Dada and her daughter Hussaina at home in a host community shelter in Maiduguri, Borno State, Nigeria. Dada was 12 years old when Boko Haram took her and an older sister. UNICEF/Ashley Gilbertson VII

Across the globe, societal change towards progression and sustainable peace is associated with violent revolutions. Although the argument stands accurate to an extent, non-violent practices carry the capabilities of yielding a similar result. Non-violent practice aspires to gradually modify the mindset of individuals, resulting in the resolution or transformation of conflicts prevalent in society. In this manner, additional efficiency is attained, since large scale suffering is sidestepped.

In the case of Africa,post-colonial states found themselves drenched in conflicts ranging from intranational crisis to inter-ethnic and inter-regional skirmishes. Correspondingly, Africa was subjugated to economic and infrastructural destruction, along with social and mental devastation for individuals. As a result, enormousfigures of refugees and internally displaced people requiring shelter, protection, and sustenance emerged, ensuing in global implications. Such factors projected the requirement of critical support for the vulnerable, displaced, and marginalized African community. Notwithstanding, to limit the bloodshed and suffering of the African community, the steps incorporated were non-violent.

To add to the non-violent argument, acclaimed educator Maria Montessori once fittingly stated, “establishing peace is the work of education. All politics can do is keep us out of war”. Implying how education essentially alters the mindset of individuals and paves a path towards peace. Incorporating education in ensuring a peaceful society falls under the category of non-violent practices, and this very concept was adapted by various states of Africa. As, a meeting of a Ministerial Conference on post-conflict and fragile states was hosted on June 2004, by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA). In the meeting, a communique was signed between 20 African states, and the Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education (ICQN-PE) was formed. Under which, the ministers of education in the African states were required to evolve their educational systems into agencies of forces, to promote peace-building, conflict prevention, conflict resolution, and nation-building. As a result, ICQN Peace Education developed a strategic plan to serve as central agencies for cultivating values, attitudes, knowledge, and skills; all of which will contribute to the development of sustainable peace through nonviolence for African individuals, and development in the region of Africa. 

With that said, ICQN has classified its goals into distinct categories. Firstly, ICQN Peace Education aims to initiate intra African exchange and dialogue, resulting in, encouragement for sustainable development via the department of education. Likewise, they carry ambitions for the formulating, strengthening, and implementation of Peace Education Policies and Strategies. Subsequently, successful implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of peace education programs shall be ensured. Moreover, ICQN Peace Education’s goal is to initiate Peace Education capacities at all levels of the African community; which will nurture strategic inter-disciplinary, inter-regional, and multi-sectoral partnerships and cooperation with numerous stakeholders. As an effect, effective research will be generated, leading to effective knowledge production. This will lead to informed policy development, resulting in the effective implementation of Peace Education.

The move towards attaining these broad objectives will require the following activities by ICQN Peace Education. Initially, policy dialogue activities will be conducted between the designated ministers of education, and all other relevant stakeholders coming from conflict and crisis impacted areas. In this manner, effective research analysis, documentation, and dissemination of publications and resources shall be conducted. Consequently, a deeper understanding of the conflicts shall arise, and promising practices for peacebuilding through education will be promoted. Moreover, capacity-building initiatives will be directed using affirmative publications and resources, which will be incorporated as tools for effective policy and practice implementation of peace education. Additionally, intra-African exchanges of expertise on peace in education shall be facilitated, resulting in the creation of a network of education actors carrying expertise in peace education from conflict-affected countries. Lastly, civil society actors will be consulted and brought into the policy dialogue process, to ensure that gaps between policy and on the ground experience are addressed. Overall, these steps shall ensure effective peace education for sustainable peace in Africa through non-violence. 

The input of ICQN peace education can be analyzed through its works in Nigeria. Being the most populous state in the African continent, Nigeria faces several challenges that penetrate in the form of conflicts, ranging from political tensions to religious and tribal violent conflicts. These constituent factors have been negatively influencing the development of the country; as they were left largely unattended. As a result, the occurrence of conflicts was eventually adapted as part of their national culture. Consequently, the current generation has either accepted the conflicts or carries little knowledge on how to resolve them. Thus, the integration of peace education into the curriculums of Nigeria was critical to change and develop the mindset and resulting actions of individuals, and to establish a cohesive and peaceful society through non-violence. 

The most critical challenge concerning Nigeria can be regarded as the terrorist activities of a faceless religious group known as “Boko Haram” in Northern Nigeria, and militants’ groups such as “Niger Delta Avenger” and the “Oodua People’s Congress” in the southern region of the Nigerian state. As a whole, these groups affected the overall well-being of the citizens of Nigeria. Terrorism resulted in the radicalization of youth, low literacy rate, unemployment, destruction of infrastructure, and a declining economy. Hence, there was a desperate need to incorporate ICQN Peace Education as part of the national curriculum; since, it would result in the empowerment of the coming generation concerning necessary skills for resolving social issues, and the refrainment from joining extremist organizations. In the Nigerian educational system, Peace Education will train individuals on the avoidance and management of violent conflicts, the establishment of better relationships with fellow beings, unity, and cooperation between various tribes. As a result, prejudice, stereotypes, and hatred for altering groups shall be eliminated, resulting in peaceful/non-violent co-existence. 

In the nineteenth century, Harris and Morison (2003) expressed that the basic foundation for social change and reform was induced by schools, churches, and community groups. Hence, with education, the hope for the willingness of students to positively contribute to the development of society shall increase, and so will their disregard for violence and wars. It was conducted that, by raising the consequences of war, the students would develop the ability to resolve conflicts in a non-violent manner. Furthermore, the ICQN Peace Education program is highly required in Nigerian primary and secondary schools. In this manner, students will be caught young and their spirit of tolerance will increase. This will equally empower the children with the necessary knowledge of peace and the skills to address the issues without resorting to violence. The teaching of Peace Education will enable the youths to become good citizens that act positively to the nation.  

In the Nigerian educational system, the main things embedded according to the non-violent principles of ICQN Peace Education go as follows. Firstly, the students are taught to respect all rights and dignity of fellow human beings. This includes all religions, cultures, ethnicities, and races. The overlying hope through this is to resolve intra state religious, ethnic, and cultural conflicts. Respecting the rights of every individual in society, regardless of their background can reduce conflicts. Adding on, non-violence is promoted along with obtaining justice through convincing and understanding. Through justice, individuals in Nigeria will not have a reason to provoke conflicts or escalate them. Furthermore, sharing and developing attitudes and skills for living together in harmony is promoted, will put an end to exclusion and oppression of certain individuals in the Nigerian society, resulting in cohesiveness. Students are taught to listen and understand by providing everyone with a chance to learn and share with the free flow of information. This shall teach students tolerance and solidarity, and they will appreciate and acknowledge that all individuals in society are unique and different in their way and that everyone has something to contribute to the community regardless of their ethnicity, language, religion, or culture. Furthermore, equality of men and women is taught, ensuring an equal place for men and women in the building of the state. As a result, conflicts penetrating towards gender discrimination shall be acknowledged and will move towards resolution. Lastly, the students are taught that they have a say in the decision-making process of the government and the community they reside in. In this manner, they shall involve themselves in the promotion of toleration and peace in society; as, they will come about the fact that their contribution will matter. To achieve the goal of Peace Education, instrumental delivery that is geared towards developing the basic elements of Peace Education along with the knowledge, skills, and values that go along with promoting the general culture of peace in the students, is required. This will result in the creation of a culture of peace among people. 

Although Nigeria is far from obtaining its due share of peace and co-existence in society, the non-violent practice of Peace Education has ensured steps towards that direction. If ICQN’s Peace Education is implemented effectively across all regions of Nigeria, the ultimate goal shall be reached. However, some recommendations to catalyze the process go as follows. Firstly, the training and retraining of teachers should be intensified. In this manner, the teachers shall be enabled to acquire the required skills and knowledge for the use of appropriate techniques and methods, that effectively teach and promote ICQN’s Peace Education. Furthermore, the Social Studies curriculum content should be reduced and a restructuring approach should be adopted. This is because Peace Education may overload the Social Studies curriculum content. Thus, adjustments in other contents should be made accordingly. Lastly, the Social Studies curriculum content as of now in secondary schools should be reviewed. This is because concepts that abide by the concepts of Peace Education should be reflected and identifies. In addition, concepts contradicting those very principles should be removed from the course. As, the contradictions might confuse students; resulting in effective Peace Education. 

 In conclusion, the Inter-Country Quality Node on Peace Education (ICQN-PE) was established by the Association for the Development of Education in Africa (ADEA), in hopes of initiating non-violent steps to bring about peace, co-existence, and development in the region of Africa, which is filled with intrastate conflicts, concerning religion, ethnicity, religion, etc. One of the states that have effectively initiated ICQN’s Peace Education in Nigeria, and has taken substantial steps towards changing the minds of the coming generation, to make them more tolerant and peaceful. The overlying goal was to alter society without resorting to violence, under which Nigeria and other African states have initiated steps towards that pathway. 

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Analyzing The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia

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photo: UNFPA/Sufian Abdul-Mouty

Ethiopia has come under unprecedented pressure from the U.S. ever since it commenced a military operation in its northern Tigray Region last November. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered the armed forces to respond to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which used to be the most powerful faction of the former ruling party, after it attacked a military barracks. Addis Ababa now officially considers the TPLF to be a terrorist group. It fell out with PM Abiy after initially facilitating his rise to power as a result of disagreements over his fast-moving socio-political reforms.

The TPLF refused to join PM Abiy’s Prosperity Party upon its formation in December 2019. It also regarded his decision to postpone national elections last August until this June due to the COVID-19 pandemic as resulting in him illegitimately remaining in power. In response, the TPLF organized its own elections in the Tigray Region in September 2020 that were not recognized by the central government. This set a tense backdrop against which the group attacked the military a few months later in early November, which was what triggered the ongoing conflict.

The U.S. and its allies claim that Ethiopia is carrying out a campaign of ethnic cleansing in Tigray, which Addis Ababa, of course, denies. This set the basis upon which the U.S. began to sanction the country. The first sanctions were imposed in late May to target Ethiopian officials as well as some of their Eritrean allies who, the U.S. claimed, were supporting them in their military campaign. The Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) pulled out of Tigray a month later in June, claiming that this unilateral move would facilitate the international community’s relief efforts in the war-torn region that had attracted so much global attention.

The conflict did not end, however, but actually expanded. The TPLF felt emboldened to invade the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara, parts of which it continues to occupy. Addis Ababa suspected that the group was receiving various equipment and other forms of support under the cover of UN aid shipments. It also accused the TPLF of manipulating international perceptions about the region’s humanitarian crisis in order to generate more support and increase pressure on the Ethiopian government. PM Abiy published an open letter to U.S. President Joe Biden last month, urging him to reconsider his country’s policy towards the conflict.

It regrettably went unheeded but deserves to be read in full, since the Ethiopian leader compellingly argued that the American policy is counterproductive and influenced by the TPLF’s lobbyists. Shortly after that, his government expelled seven UN officials at the end of September, who it accused of meddling. In early October, CNN published a report claiming that Ethiopian Airlines was illegally transporting weapons to and from Eritrea during the early stages of the conflict. This, in turn, prompted more sanctions threats from the U.S. The situation is such that the U.S. is now actively working in support of the TPLF against PM Abiy’s government.

This American hybrid war on Ethiopia is waged in various ways that deserve further study. They closely resemble the American hybrid war on Syria in the sense that the U.S. is using humanitarian pretexts to justify meddling in the country’s internal affairs. Its motivations to backstab its regional ally are entirely self-interested and zero-sum. The U.S. is uncomfortable with PM Abiy’s geopolitical balancing between Washington and Beijing. Although the former TPLF-led government was also close to China, the U.S. likely expected PM Abiy to distance Ethiopia from it, considering the pressure that Washington exerts upon its partners to do so.

He came to power in early 2018 around the time when the U.S. began to intensify its ongoing New Cold War with China. From the American perspective, it is unacceptable for the country’s partners to retain close ties with its top geopolitical rival. It is for this reason why the US far from appreciates PM Abiy’s balancing act since it likely expected for him to move away from China. This leads to the next motivation for the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia, which is to return the TPLF to power there, if not in a national capacity, then at least in its home region. Such an explanation will now be elaborated on more at length.

Ethiopia finds itself at a crossroads whereby the country can either continue on the path of centralization, like PM Abiy has attempted to do, or pursue the course of further federalization to the point where its regions receive more autonomy than before. One of the TPLF’s primary criticisms of the Ethiopian leader is that he is allegedly going against the country’s post-civil war federal foundation. If it can succeed at least in securing broad autonomy for its home region by force after failing to do so peacefully, this might then trigger radical reforms that result in advancing its federal vision throughout the rest of the country.

The U.S. could exploit the broad autonomy that these regions might receive in order to individually pressure them to distance themselves from China. Ethiopia is, after all, Africa’s second most populous country and used to have one of the world’s fastest rates of economic growth before the COVID-19 pandemic. From a continental standpoint, the U.S. might believe that turning Ethiopia against China could eventually become a game-changer in the New Cold War’s African theater. In other words, everything that the U.S. is doing against Ethiopia is motivated by its desire to “contain” China. It is now time to explain its modus operandi in detail.

The U.S. immediately exploited the TPLF-provoked conflict in Ethiopia to pressure PM Abiy to treat the group as his political equals. This was unacceptable for him, since doing so would legitimize all other groups that attack the armed forces in pursuit of their political objectives. The Ethiopian leader rightly feared that it could also trigger a domino effect that results in the country’s “Balkanization”, which would advance American interests in the sense of taking the country out of the “geopolitical game” with China. In response to his recalcitrance, the U.S. alleged that his government was carrying out ethnic cleansing.

American officials knew that this would attract global attention that they could manipulate to put multilateral pressure upon his government. Even so, PM Abiy still did not relent but continued waging his war in the interests of national unity. With time, the U.S. began to portray him as a “rogue leader” who did not deserve his Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for resolving his country’s frozen conflict with the neighboring Eritrea. Its perception managers presented him as a power-hungry dictator, who was ruthlessly killing the ethnic minorities that opposed his government, including by deliberately starving them to death.

The ENDF’s withdrawal from the Tigray Region over the summer was interpreted by the U.S. as having been commenced from a position of weakness. It believed that ramping up the pressure at this sensitive point in the conflict could lead to him politically capitulating to the TPLF’s demands. This was a wrong assessment since PM Abiy hoped that everything would stabilize after his decision facilitated international relief efforts to the war-torn region. These were unfortunately exploited, according to Addis Ababa, in order to provide more support for the TPLF, which is why his government recently expelled those seven UN officials.

The U.S. “humanitarian imperialism”, as one can now call its policy against Ethiopia, is very pernicious. It focuses solely on the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray Region while ignoring the ones that the TPLF caused in the neighboring Afar and Amhara regions. This policy also manipulates perceptions about the situation in Tigray in order to delegitimize PM Abiy, the ENDF and the political cause of national unity that they are fighting for. The purpose is to encourage more members of the international community to pressure Ethiopia to the point where it finally feels compelled to politically capitulate. This policy, however, has proven to be counterproductive.

Far from giving up the fight, Ethiopia is doubling down and is now more motivated than ever before to see the war to its end, though ideally through a political rather than military solution due to humanitarian considerations. This does not imply treating the terrorist-designated TPLF as an equal but envisions replacing its leadership in the Tigray Region with a pro-government/unity party instead. That is, of course, easier said than done, which is why military means might continue to be relied upon to this political end. Throughout the course of its struggle, Ethiopia has begun to be seen as an anti-imperialist icon across Africa and the rest of the Global South.

PM Abiy’s open letter to Biden was full of powerful statements articulating Ethiopia’s sovereign interests. It showed that African leaders can resist the U.S., which could inspire the Ethiopian leader’s counterparts who might also come under similar pressure from their partner sometime in the future—due to its zero-sum New Cold War geopolitical calculations. Ethiopia’s sheer size makes it an African leader, not to mention it hosting the headquarters of the African Union, so it can influence the rest of the continent. It also has a very proud anti-imperialist history which motivates its people not to submit to foreign pressure.

China, Russia and India have politically supported Ethiopia against the U.S. at the UN, thereby debunking The Economist’s lie last week that “Ethiopia is losing friends and influence”. To the contrary, Ethiopia is gaining friends and influence, especially among the rising powers and the rest of the Global South. Its principled resistance to the American hybrid war on it has shown others that there is an alternative to capitulation. It is indeed possible to fight back in the interests of national unity. Not all American destabilization plots are guaranteed success. Just like the U.S. failed to topple the Syrian government, so too has it failed to topple the Ethiopian regime.

Ethiopia, however, is many orders of magnitude larger than Syria. This makes its hitherto successful resistance to the American hybrid war all the more significant. The leader in the Horn of Africa is a very diverse country, whose many people could be pitted against one another through information warfare to provoke another round of civil war that would help the TPLF’s U.S.-backed anti-government crusade. That worst-case scenario has not materialized, though, due to the majority of the population’s commitment to national unity even among some of those who might have misgivings about the present government.

This year’s elections saw the Prosperity Party win by a landslide, which shows how much genuine support it and its founder have among the masses. Furthermore, PM Abiy’s concept of “medemer” (“coming together”) aims to counteract “Balkanization” processes by pragmatically reforming socio-political relations inside the country. It is a very promising idea that could inspire other very diverse states across the Global South and help them ideologically thwart divide-and-rule plots like the one presently waged against Ethiopia.

Assessing the strategic situation as it presently stands, the American Hybrid War on Ethiopia is expected to intensify on manipulated humanitarian pretexts. More sanctions and even the threatened revocation of Ethiopia’s access to the U.S. market through the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) could worsen the economic situation for millions of people. The purpose in doing so would be to provoke anti-government protests that the U.S. hopes would be violent enough to catalyze a self-sustaining cycle of destabilization throughout the country after the security services crack down on the rioters.

The supplementary purpose is to encourage some Ethiopians to join anti-government terrorist groups allied or working in coordination with the TPLF unless the U.S. succeeds in pulling off a Color Revolution. This modus operandi is identical to the one that it relied upon in its hybrid war on Syria. In the Ethiopian context, the U.S. hopes to forcefully “Balkanize” the country, whether de jure or de facto through an extreme form of federalization. The point is to punish Ethiopia for balancing between China and the U.S., which showed other Global South states that such a pragmatic approach is possible instead of the U.S.-practised zero-sum one.

Nevertheless, the U.S. might still fail. The ENDF and other security services retain control throughout all the country’s regions with the exception of Tigray. It is therefore unlikely that any Color Revolution or Unconventional War there will succeed. Furthermore, Ethiopia enjoys close ties with the rising multipolar powers like China, Russia and India who can help it weather the current crisis by neutralizing U.S. attempts to isolate the country. In addition, the “medemer” concept ensures that national unity remains at the core of the Ethiopian society, reducing the appeal of foreign-backed “Balkanization” narratives.

Altogether, it can be said that Ethiopia is successfully resisting the U.S. hybrid war against it. There have certainly been some serious costs to its international reputation, but it remains committed to the cause of national unity, and it does not seem likely to politically capitulate to the terrorist-designed TPLF’s foreign-backed demands. Expelling those seven UN officials for meddling was a major move which speaks to how serious the country is about protecting its sovereignty. The same can also be said about PM Abiy’s open letter to Biden which preceded that development and explained why the U.S. is wrong for meddling in Ethiopia.

The American Hybrid War on Ethiopia will likely continue since the US doesn’t like to lose. It keenly understands what’s at stake in the realm of international perceptions, and it’s that the US cannot afford to have an African country – let alone one as large and influential as Ethiopia is – successfully resist its pressure campaign. Ethiopia’s resolute resistance can inspire other countries across the Global South, which can complicate the US’ efforts to pressure them into curtailing ties with China in the New Cold War. Had the US simply accepted Ethiopia’s balancing act, then the conflict might have ended by now, but its zero-sum policies prevented that.

From our partner RIAC

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Reducing industrial pollution in the Niger River Basin

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The Niger River is the third-longest river in Africa, running for 4,180 km (2,600 miles) from its source in south-eastern Guinea, through Mali, Niger and Nigeria, before discharging via the Niger Delta into the Gulf of Guinea in the Atlantic Ocean. Tributaries that run through a further five countries feed into the mighty Niger.

Hundreds of millions of people in West Africa depend on the river and its tributaries, for drinking water, for fish to eat, for irrigation to grow crops, for use in productive processes, and for hydroelectric power.

The health of the Niger River Basin is vitally important for the people and for the environment of West Africa. But this health is endangered by land degradation, pollution, loss of biodiversity, invading aquatic vegetal species and climate change.

To both assess and address these environmental issues, a Global Environment Facility (GEF)-funded project has brought together international, regional and national entities to work on integrated water resources management for the benefit of communities and the resilience of ecosystems. (Project details can be found here.)

One part of the early project research found that as the Niger River passes through Tembakounda, Bamako, Gao, Niamey, Lokoja and Onithsa – major trading, agro-processing and industrial cities – wastewater and other polluting substances are discharged directly into the river, often without consideration for the environment. National governments of the countries which the river runs through are either unable to deal with the accumulated environmental problems and/or are ineffective at preventing, regulating, reducing and managing pollution from industrial activities.

For this reason, one component of the GEF project, implemented by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), will facilitate the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST) to reduce wastewater discharges and pollution loads into the Niger River.

Despite the limitations on travel resulting from measures to halt the spread of the coronavirus, in August this year, UNIDO successfully identified and engaged with 19 pilot enterprises in various sectors, including pharmaceuticals, mining and agribusiness, operating in ‘pollution hotspots’ in the countries of the Niger River Basin. This number exceeds the original target of one enterprise per country. 

UNIDO experts are now introducing and sharing the Transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology (TEST) methodology with the pilot enterprises. In essence, this will mean the application of a set of tools including Resource Efficient and Cleaner Production, Environmental Management Systems, and Environmental Management Accounting, which will lead to the adoption of best practices, new skills and a new management culture.

Armed with these tools, the enterprises will be able to reduce product costs and increase productivity, while reducing the adverse environmental consequences of their operations. An awareness-raising campaign will be carried out so that the demonstration effect resonates across the Niger River Basin, prompting other enterprises to follow suit.

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Wagner: Putin’s secret weapon on the way to Mali?

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Soldiers from the Wagner Group (source: middleeastmonitor.com)

France is outraged at the prospect of Russian mercenaries from the Wagner group arriving in Mali. However, Paris is seeking a way out of an unwinnable conflict.

On September 13, a Reuters news agency article citing unnamed sources and reporting advanced negotiations between Mali and the Russian mercenary company Wagner sparked a firestorm of reactions. The United States, Germany, and the United Nations have all warned Bamako’s military against such collaboration. According to them, the arrival of Russian mercenaries – a thousand have been estimated – would jeopardize the West’s commitment to fighting the jihadists who control a large portion of Malian territory.

But France, understandably, is the most vocal against such a move. The former colonial power has maintained a military presence in the country since 2013, when it halted the jihadists’ advance on the capital. Florence Parly, the French Minister of the Armed Forces, visited Bamako on September 20th to warn Malian colonels in power following two coups in August 2020 and May 2021. Wagner’s choice, she said, would be that of “isolation” at a time when “the international community has never been so numerous in fighting jihadists in the Sahel”.

What the minister does not mention is that France’s commitment to Mali is waning. Emmanuel Macron used the second Malian coup d’état last June, less than a year before the French presidential election, to announce a “redeployment” of French forces in Mali. Although Paris refuses to discuss a de facto withdrawal, even if it is partial, the truth is that the tricolored soldiers will abandon the isolated bases of Kidal, Timbuktu, and Tessalit in the country’s north by next year, concentrating on the area further south of the three borders with Niger and Burkina Faso.

Europeans, who are expected to be more supportive of France, are also perplexed. The humiliation of the Western withdrawal from Afghanistan has served as a wake-up call. The Afghan government’s sudden collapse in the face of the Taliban has demonstrated how difficult it is to build a strong army and institutions. This scenario appears to be repeating itself in Mali.

The possibility of a rapprochement between Bamako and Moscow is taken seriously because Putschists in Mali have always been sensitive to Russian offerings. Colonel Sadio Camara, Mali’s Defense Minister, visited Russia on September 4. Disagreements over a reversal of Mali’s alliances are said to have been one of the causes of the Malian colonels’ second coup, which ousted the civilian transitional government last May.

Russia also acts as a boogeyman for the Malian military. According to a Daily Beast investigation, the Malian army organized a supposedly spontaneous demonstration last May demanding Russian intervention. This was also a warning to the international community, which is growing weary of the country’s poor governance and repeated coups.

Is Mali transitioning from the French to the Russian spheres of influence? Since Moscow gained a foothold in the Central African Republic, the scenario is not a figment of the imagination. Russian instructors and Wagner’s mercenaries have proven their worth in this former French backyard. Even though the UN condemns Russia’s atrocities in this conflict, the Russians were able to push back the rebels who were threatening the capital Bangui last December with the help of UN peacekeepers and Rwandan reinforcements.

The Kremlin denies any involvement with the Wagner group. However, the company is actually run by a close associate of Vladimir Putin. The use of private mercenaries allows Moscow to avoid military commitments abroad, as it did previously in Ukraine and Libya. “Russia is not negotiating a military presence in Mali,” said a Kremlin spokesman in mid-September. When questioned by the magazine Jeune Afrique on September 20th, Central African President Faustin-Archange Touadéra swore that he had “not signed anything with Wagner.” “In the Central African Republic, we have companies that were established in accordance with the law and operate on liberalized markets,” he explained.

Nothing has been decided on Wagner, it is repeated in Bamako. According to the military, the selection of foreign “partners” is a matter of Mali’s “sovereignty.” They regard these “rumors” as an attempt to “discredit the country.” The Malian junta is under siege, not only from jihadists but also from the international community. The latter is calling for elections to be held in February to return power to civilians, as stipulated in the military-agreed transition charter. Electoral reform must come before the election. However, Colonel Assimi Gota, the transitional president, has shown little interest in preparing for these elections. The Malian junta may also be hoping that Russia’s partners will be less stringent on democratic requirements.

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