Dhe Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defense currently have no contacts at ministerial level with the military junta in Mali. However, there are currently no plans to withdraw the approximately 1,400 Bundeswehr soldiers from the West African country. This was announced by spokesmen for the two ministries. A representative of the Ministry of Defense said that another flight to Mali is planned for next Thursday to exchange soldiers from the UN mission MINUSMA contingent.
Since the federal government suspended participation in the UN mission in Mali last Friday because of the military junta’s constant harassment and obstruction of the Bundeswehr, there have been no attempts at ministerial level to calm the situation or clear up “misunderstandings”. As a spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said, the German ambassador is in contact with the Foreign Ministry. Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht (SPD) spoke to her Malian counterpart Sadio Camara on the phone last Thursday. According to her account, she had received the promise that the Bundeswehr would be able to fly personnel in and out again unhindered for their participation in the MINUSMA mission.
From the German point of view, this promise was broken again the next day when a machine with infantrymen from Germany was not allowed to land. This also continues the de facto kidnapping of around 200 Bundeswehr soldiers by the regime, which has been going on for weeks. Since the end of their service in Mali, the soldiers have not been allowed to fly out. Lambrecht then accused Camara of breaking his word and said: “Camara’s actions speak a different language than his words.” The German commitment to MINUSMA was then suspended.
Call without consequences
Most recently, Lambrecht had campaigned without consequences for several dozen Ivorian soldiers who were supposed to guard UN properties at Bamako Airport, where Germans are also stationed. When the contingent of this force was changed at the beginning of July, 49 soldiers were arrested, allegedly as “mercenaries”. The regime in Mali is also at odds with its neighbor Ivory Coast, because they support sanctions against the junta in Bamako. Lambrecht had demanded: “I am calling on those responsible in Mali to release the Ivorian soldiers immediately.” A call that had no consequences. Shortly after German UN activities were suspended on Friday, the junta announced that charges would be brought against the Ivorian soldiers. As the French news agency AFP reports, the accusation is: “Attempted attack on state security.” As it became known from circles in the Bundestag, the Ivorian soldiers were unarmed when they arrived in Mali.
A government spokeswoman said on Monday that the MINUSMA mission in Mali was still ready, but “this also requires appropriate cooperation”. Within the government there are apparently differences of opinion between the Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence, although the Federal Foreign Office still sees opportunities for the mission to continue. The agency’s top African diplomat, Christian Buck, returned with optimistic news after a trip to Bamako earlier last week. Among other things, the telephone call between the two defense ministers was prepared. According to the Ministry of Defense, Camara had not responded to calls for weeks. On Monday, the ministry spoke diplomatically of a “pause of several weeks”.
Meanwhile, the regime ostentatiously maintains contacts with both Moscow and Beijing. Shortly after an unsuccessful meeting with the German ambassador on “rotation issues”, the Malian foreign minister received the Chinese ambassador, to whom he pledged his firm support in the Taiwan conflict in a spirit of “friendship and solidarity”. One supports “the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of China”, it said in a final text of the meeting. Also last week, Mali received a large quantity of Russian weapons.
Germany is currently not making any concrete preparations for relocating local staff. According to the information, 59 local employees work for the Bundeswehr in Mali, for example as translators. The Foreign Office has 19 employees. In the opinion of both houses, the situation in Mali can in no way be compared to that in Afghanistan before the Taliban stormed Kabul. One does not assume a general overriding threat to the local forces, according to the spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.