France will stop sending public development aid to Mali because of the West African country’s alleged ties to Russian paramilitaries, according to the French foreign ministry.
“Given the attitude of Mali’s junta leader, allied with the Russian mercenaries of Wagner, we have suspended our public development aid to Mali,” a ministry source said on Thursday.
The announcement comes three months after France announced that it was winding down its anti-jihadist operation known as Operation Barkhane.
The ministry said it will maintain humanitarian aid, however, and continue to support civil society organisations.
Although the Malian junta denies it has hired Wagner operatives – a paramilitary force with ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin – it has continued to foster deeper ties with Russia, pushing France out of the diplomatic equation.
After a review of its presence in West Africa, Paris responded in kind to the new junta led by Assimi Goita by withdrawing its forces involved in Barkhane, which had been helping five Sahel countries fight Islamists.
Relations between Mali and France have been strained since the first military coup in Mali, two years ago.
Funding cuts could hurt vulnerable
International aid groups worry that these cuts could hurt vulnerable Malians. Grants provided by French development funding agency AFD totaled 470 million euros between January 2013 and September 2017, according to the French embassy to Mali’s website.
This loss of funding could endanger more than 35 percent of Malians, or 7.5 million people, as several charities have pointed out to French President Emmanuel Macron.
“The end of this financing will stop essential, even vital activities… to help poor and vulnerable communities,” they wrote in a letter seen by French news agency AFP this week.