By Ebi Kesiena
Mali has marked its 61st anniversary of independence from France in Kati, near Bamako with a military parade which had the President of the transition, Colonel Assimi Goïta in attendance.
The celebration however comes at a time of political uncertainty in the nation.
Colonel Goïta stated that despite the difficult times faced by the country, citizens must show true patriotism to the country.
Goïta assured that Mali will “honour all its international commitments”, amid the controversy over the Malian military’s alleged intention to hire paramilitaries from Russian private-security firm Wagner.
The Russian company is considered close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has been accused of committing abuses.
France’s Defence Minister, Florence Parly during a visit to the Sahel state, warned that hiring paramilitaries from the Russian private-security firm would isolate the country internationally.
According to Parly, if Mali hired the firm, at a time when international partners fighting jihadism in the Sahel had never been so numerous, such a choice would be that of isolation.
Parly’s meeting with her Malian counterpart, Colonel Sadio Camara follows a previous warning to Bamako from its former colonial power last week, after reports that Mali’s army-dominated government was close to hiring 1,000 Wagner paramilitaries.
Also, a Malian Defence Ministry official, who requested anonymity, added that Camara had assured Parly that no decision had been made.
The minister explained that France’s “abandonment” of Mali meant “everything had to be considered to secure the country,” the official said.
France, which has thousands of troops stationed in the war-torn country, has pledged a major troop drawdown across the Sahel.
Since 2020, Mali has been undergoing a political transition after yet another military coup. It is also occupied by foreign military forces as part of the fight against terrorism, which has been raging for several years.
According to the UN, insecurity is having a devastating impact on people’s daily lives and continues to take its toll.