From Mali, Russia’s Lavrov addresses the neo-colonialism of Western nations

By Benjamin Roger, Benjamin Roger

Posted on Friday, 10 February 2023 11:27
Malian Transitional President, Colonel Assimi Goïta, and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in Bamako on 07 February 2023.

In Bamako since Monday, the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs welcomed the partnership between Mali and Russia, while offering his services to other African countries.

Standing on conquered ground, Sergey Lavrov took the opportunity to fire rhetorical missiles at his Western opponents, mocking their neo-colonialism in Africa. From Bamako, Moscow’s new stronghold on the continent, Lavrov has also attempted to sell African countries on Russian cooperation – in particular, to those in the Sahel and the Gulf of Guinea currently staring down the barrel of a jihadi threat.

Arriving Monday evening 6 February in the Malian capital, Russian president Vladimir Putin’s diplomacy chief began a 48-hour official visit – the first of a Russian minister of foreign affairs in the country.

Wagner’s mercenaries

After being welcomed at the airport by his Malian counterpart, Abdoulaye Diop, Lavrov held talks with him at the ministry of foreign affairs on Tuesday 7 February. The two men gave an overview of the bilateral cooperation between their two countries, particularly in terms of defence, security, economy, and energy. A sign of their good relations, Lavrov was made Commander of the National Order of Mali by his host.

Russia is here at Mali’s request and Russia responds effectively to Mali’s needs

The two ministers then held a joint press conference, during which they praised their cooperation in the face of the jihadist groups currently threatening Malian stability. Since the end of 2021, around 1,400 Wagner Group mercenaries have been deployed throughout the country.

Although Lavrov and Putin have acknowledged the presence of this private military company headed by Yevgeny Prigozhin (a close associate of the Russian president), Malian transitional authorities continue to deny it.

In Bamako, Lavrov promised his Malian interlocutors continued Russian military support. In addition to the deployment of Wagner’s men, Moscow has provided a lot of equipment to Bamako since the end of 2021, including planes, helicopters or aerial radars.

Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad

“The fight against terrorism is, of course, topical for the other countries of the region,” Lavrov said during the press conference. “We will provide them with our assistance to overcome these difficulties. This concerns Guinea, Burkina Faso, Chad and, in general, the Sahelo-Saharan region; and even the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea.”

Criticised by many for his invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, President Putin is engaged in an all-out battle against Western countries, which is partly being played out on the African continent. After gaining a foothold in the Central African Republic and Mali by pushing them to cut ties with France, Russia is seeking to extend its influence in Africa.

“We will support the resolution of problems across the African continent. We constantly work on the principle that African problems should be solved with African solutions,” Lavrov said. According to him, the actions of Westerners in Africa are the same as “everywhere in the world”, including in Europe, where they have made Ukraine a bridgehead to wage a hybrid war against Russia.


For his part, Diop also responded to Western criticism of the new Bamako-Moscow alliance. “We are not going to continue to justify ourselves for the choice of our partners […]. Russia is here at Mali’s request and Russia responds effectively to Mali’s needs,” he said.

He also praised the military deliveries of his Russian allies, as well as their commitment to ensuring a regular supply of cereals, fertilisers and hydrocarbons to his country, which maintains delicate relations with several of its neighbours and Western powers.

Diop and Lavrov also defended themselves against any violation of human rights in Mali. Wagner’s mercenaries, as well as the Forces armées maliennes (Fama), are indeed regularly accused of abuses against civilians during their field operations. “Human rights are instrumentalised, politicised for hidden agendas,” said the Malian minister of foreign affairs.

After speaking with his counterpart, Lavrov was later hosted by Colonel Goïta at the Koulouba Palace, a meeting of which nothing has yet filtered. The president of the transition is also expected to participate in the next Russia-Africa summit scheduled for July in Saint Petersburg.

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