European CSDP missions in Mali (EUCAP Sahel and EUTM) suspend their activity

(B2) The political situation being complicated after the coup d’état in Mali, “we have decided to suspend all operational activities for our two missions”: EUTM Mali [in charge of advising and training the Malian army] and EUCAP Sahel [in charge of the same mission for the security forces], a European diplomat confirmed today to a group of journalists, including B2.

Training of trainers at company level and a course focused on the defence of a military base at the Koulikoro Training Camp (source: EUTM Mali)

Not easy to keep on going with the training

The mandate of these missions is “to work with and support the legitimate authorities in the development of the security forces”. It is therefore difficult to continue to carry out such a mission when these forces are themselves partly involved in a coup condemned by the European Union.

A coup condemned by the EU

The Europeans, like the African Union and the UN Security Council, condemned the coup, as well as called for the return of the constitutional order, the release of prisoners, in particular of President IBK (Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta) and the Prime Minister (Boubou Cissé). They support the mediation efforts of ECOWAS and say they hope that a “solution in line with the aspirations of the Malian people” will be found. The objective is “the establishment of a transitional civilian government as soon as the conditions allow it”.

The resumption of activities conditioned to a return to normality

This suspension is “temporary”, our source guaranteed. “We are ready to resume these activities in Mali in partnership with the UN as soon as the conditions allow it”. This means as soon as possible. For the CSDP specialists at the European diplomatic service (EEAS), it is “vital to maintain the long-term investment made by the international community to work for the security and stability of Mali and the Sahel region. This is very important for our security and for the security of Europeans as well”.

The personnel stays on the ground

According to our information, the entire staff remains on site in Bamako and Koulikoro. They are simply confined, avoiding too much contact with each other. Many of the soldiers and officers who initiated or participated in the coup d’état have indeed passed into the hands of European trainers or have been in contact with them.

Comment: unlucky missions

After a standstill in training activities due to the coronavirus pandemic (read: Les missions militaires de la PSDC continuent, mais à bas régime (v3)), the two mission were just beginning to resume their activities, as asked for by both EU High Representative Josep Borrell and the Member States (read: Comment les missions EUTM vont se redéployer ? La MPCC se prépare au grand saut). This new interruption, which is expected to last a few more weeks, will be a serious blow to the will of the Europeans to stabilise Mali.

The only consolation is that the EUTM Mali mission no longer has this country as its sole geographical focus, but now has a more regional mandate, notably including Burkina Faso (read: En route vers une EUTM Mali II en attendant une EUTM Burkina ou une EUTM Sahel). It could therefore redeploy part of its resources and activities to this country, much more quickly than expected.

(Nicolas Gros-Verheyde, with Aurélie Pugnet on the ‘diplomatic front’)

Nicolas Gros-Verheyde

Rédacteur en chef du site B2. Diplômé en droit européen de l'université Paris I Pantheon Sorbonne et auditeur 65e session IHEDN (Institut des hautes études de la défense nationale. Journaliste depuis 1989, fonde B2 - Bruxelles2 en 2008. Correspondant UE/OTAN à Bruxelles pour Sud-Ouest (auparavant Ouest-France et France-Soir).