South Asia and Beyond

HRW Accuses Wagner Group, Malian Army Of War Crimes Against Civilians In Mali

 HRW Accuses Wagner Group, Malian Army Of War Crimes Against Civilians In Mali

Human Rights Watch has said in its latest report that the Russian paramilitary group Wagner is committing war cimes in Mali. In its report on Thursday, it said that “Malian armed forces and Wagner Group foreign fighters unlawfully killed and summarily executed several dozen civilians in counterinsurgency operations in Mali’s central and northern regions since December.”

The report cited the recent example of a military drone strike on a “wedding celebration on February 16, and another during a burial on February 17, 2024, killed at least 14 civilians, including 4 children.”

Soldiers from the Wagner group, which was founded by the late Russian mercenary leader and oligarch Yevgeny Prigozhin, were deployed to Bamako, Mali’s capital in December 2021 with support from the Russian armed forces. Since then, Human Rights Watch has said it has documented grave abuses by Malian security forces and allied fighters believed to be from the Wagner Group.

Mali had affected a coup in 2020 where members of the Armed Forces overthrew then President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. The country which has been battling a jihadist insurgency since 2012 has turned to Russia. Moscow claims that it is helping Mali and other African nations help battle jihadist insurgencies, but experts worry it is also aiding and abetting junta groups commit war crimes.

The expanding footprint of Russia in Africa has also come at the expense of France in Africa. Speaking in 2023 at a joint press conference with Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov, Mali’s foreign minister Abdoulaye Diop said. “We will no longer justify our choice of partner. Russia is here on demand by Mali and responds efficiently to our strategic needs.”

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Experts believe Russia’s growing presence in Africa came as African nations became sick of what they saw as “French occupation.” French forces entered Mali in 2013, but after a decade later, Malians believe that they have been ineffective. France withdrew its troops from the country in 2022.

Russia has challenges of its own to contend with in dealing with Africa. Prigozhin who had strong personal connections in Africa died in a plane crash in 2023, and it was believed that without him Wagner would fold. President Putin has since taken hold of the paramilitary force, and media reports say that Moscow is recruiting mercenaries to go to Africa in what will be called the Africa Corps. They will be supervised by Russia’s defence ministry.

Such reports have not been officially confirmed by the Kremlin.


Ashwin Ahmad

Traveller, bibliophile and wordsmith with a yen for international relations. A journalist and budding author of short fiction, life is a daily struggle to uncover the latest breaking story while attempting to be Hemingway in the self-same time. Focussed especially on Europe and West Asia, discussing Brexit, the Iran crisis and all matters related is a passion that endures to this day. Believes firmly that life without the written word is a life best not lived. That’s me, Ashwin Ahmad.