russain sanctions Mali’s defense minister

The US Treasury Department targeted Colonel Sadio Camara for bringing Russia’s Wagner Group fighters into the country

Washington blacklisted Malian Defense Minister Colonel Sadio Camara on Monday, citing the African country’s contacts with Russian private military company Wagner Group. 

In a statement on its website, the US Treasury Department accused Camara of supporting the group’s “malicious activities in Mali.” The Treasury added that Camara made several trips to Russia in 2021 “to solidify the agreement between the Wagner Group and the Malian transition government to deploy the Wagner Group to Mali.”

Colonel Alou Boi Diarra, Mali’s Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and his deputy, Lieutenant Colonel Adama Bagayoko, were also blacklisted. They were accused of facilitating the movement of the Wagner fighters inside the country. 

“These officials have made their people vulnerable to the Wagner Group’s destabilizing activities and human rights abuses while paving the way for the exploitation of their country’s sovereign resources to the benefit of the Wagner Group’s operations in Ukraine,” Under Secretary of the Treasury for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Brian Nelson said.

Mali, which has been fighting a decade-long Islamist insurgency, reportedly signed a deal with Wagner in 2021. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at the time that the Malian authorities have asked for the company’s help against “terrorists.” Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said that “Russian instructors” were training the country’s army.

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The African country has insisted on its right to seek security arrangements from any party it sees fit. “We will no longer justify our choice of partner. Russia is here on demand by Mali and responds efficiently to our strategic needs,” Diop said during a press conference with Lavrov in February.

Mali saw political instability in recent years, including coups in 2020 and 2021. French soldiers left the country last year, and the UN ended its 10-year peacekeeping mission in Mali on June 30. In both cases, officials in Bamako argued that foreign presence had failed to address the country’s security concerns.

The Wagner Group partially relocated to Belarus after its founder and leader businessman Evgeny Prigozhin launched a failed mutiny in Russia last month. Lavrov confirmed after the mutiny that specialists from Russia would continue to work with the Malian authorities.

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