An estimated 3,000 Malians marched Wednesday through the streets of Bamako on the country’s day of independence from France.
Protesters, many of whom were against what they perceive as “foreign meddling,” marched in support of the military government, as Colonel Assimi Goita, Mali’s interim president, faced pressure from Western governments to cancel a deal with Russian security firm Wagner.
Over the past week, Paris in particular has expressed concern over a reported deal between Bamako and Moscow to hire 1,000 mercenaries.
“Such a choice would be one of isolation,” French Defense Minister Florence Parly said Monday during a visit to Mali.
Germany and the European Union have also expressed concern about the deal.
But demonstrators throughout the country Wednesday seemed to support the deal, with some carrying Russian flags in addition to Malian flags and pro-military placards, Agence France-Presse reported.
France, the country’s former colonial ruler, has thousands of troops in Mali to help fight a jihadist resurgence throughout the country. But many in Mali consider the mission a failure, and protests against the French military presence have taken place before.
In addition to their worries about the deal with Russia, many Western powers and Malian neighbors have expressed concern that the military government may fail to hold elections early next year as promised.
Goita and his military government took power in a coup in May, just months after new leadership had been chosen. Goita, who also led a coup that overthrew the elected government last October, said the transitional government had violated an agreement to advise him on a cabinet reshuffle.
Source: Voice of America