French President Emmanuel Macron strongly denounced on Monday the “unworthy” speeches fueling anti-French critics in the Sahel, who according to him serve “foreign powers” with “a mercenary agenda”.
“The speeches that I have heard in recent weeks are unworthy (…) because they serve other interests, either those of terrorist groups (…) or those of other foreign powers who simply want to see Europeans more far, because they have their own agenda, an agenda of mercenaries ”, denounced the French president, saying that“ the French army ”was in the Sahel“ for security and stability ”, not for“ others interests ».
“I hear a lot of people saying everything and anything. Ask yourself by whom they are paid, ask yourself what interest they serve. I have my idea, « replied Macron to a Malian journalist who reported the doubts of part of the population of his country on the reasons for the engagement of the French soldiers and their determination to fight the jihadists.
“Let these people say who gets killed for their children!” Exclaimed Mr. Macron while 41 French soldiers have been killed in the Sahel since 2013. “I know who fell for the safety of Malian women and Malians, Nigeriens and Burkinabè: French soldiers ”, he hammered.
The latter thanked the Sahelian leaders for having « fought very firmly » these « unworthy speeches ». But the five African heads of state, several of whom praised France’s commitment in their year-end speeches, remained silent on this point at the press conference in Pau.
« We suspect the Russians of encouraging anti-French sentiment » in the Sahelo-Saharan strip, a high-ranking French official recently told AFP.
And although President Macron did not specify on Monday which « foreign powers » he is referring to, the term « mercenaries » evokes the activities of the sulphurous Russian paramilitary group Wagner.
In the fall of 2019, a few months after the conclusion of a modest military cooperation agreement between Mali and Russia, a small team from Wagner stayed in Bamako, AFP learned from two separate security sources in Africa from West.
This group, with which Moscow denies any link, provides maintenance services for military equipment, among other activities. They have been seen elsewhere in Africa: in Libya, they are said to be allies of Marshal Haftar. In northern Mozambique, they are said to be fighting a jihadist rebellion with the army, and western media have reported presence in Madagascar and Sudan.