It will not improve relations between France and Mali. French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian is summoned by Malian justice in an investigation for “damage to public property and other offences”, AFP learned this Wednesday from a court in Bamako, in a context of very tense bilateral relations.
An investigating judge from the economic and financial center of Bamako “invites Mr. Jean-Yves Le Drian to appear at his office on Monday June 20, 2022 for a matter concerning him”, specifies the summons which has been authenticated by the Malian justice. In the evening, the Quai d’Orsay told AFP that it had not been informed. “No notification or information of any kind has reached us through the appropriate channels,” he said.
Towards a conflict of interest?
A Malian judicial source told AFP that this investigation followed a complaint from a platform of several Malian civil society associations, called “Maliko” (“The cause of Mali”). “It’s a story of awarding a Malian passport manufacturing market to a French company (to which) Le Drian’s son would be linked,” added this judicial source.
According to an official document consulted by AFP, the case dates from 2015, when Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was president of Mali. At that time, a French company – Oberthur Technologie – obtained the manufacturing contract for Malian biometric passports for ten years. “Le Drian was Minister of Defense at the time. Did he support the case to defend a French company or its interests? This is basically what Malian justice seeks to understand. There, we are at the investigation stage,” another Malian judicial source told AFP.
For its part, the Maliko association (close to the junta currently in power in Mali), which filed a complaint and joined as a civil party, made a document available to AFP. “The procedures and rules established by Malian legislation, in particular the decree (…) relating to the public procurement code, were blithely violated during the awarding of the aforementioned contract”, states the document which accompanies the complaint.
Commenting on the case, a Malian magistrate for her part told AFP that “this summons” had “no legal basis”. Mali has been the scene since 2012 of operations by jihadist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization, as well as violence of all kinds perpetrated by self-proclaimed self-defense militias and bandits.
This violence, which started in the north in 2012, spread to the center, then to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. They caused thousands of civilian and military deaths as well as hundreds of thousands of displaced persons, despite the deployment of UN, French and African forces. The Malian junta announced in early May to end the 2014 cooperation treaty with France, as well as the 2013 and 2020 agreements setting the legal framework for the presence of the anti-jihadist force Barkhane and the grouping of European special forces Takuba, initiated by France.
Relations are further deteriorating as Mali turns to Russia. France and its allies accuse the junta of having secured the services of the Russian private security company Wagner, with controversial actions, which Bamako disputes. In a rather unprecedented way, the French general staff recently decided to broadcast videos shot by a drone near the Gossi base (center), left in April by France, showing, according to him, Wagner paramilitaries in the process of to bury bodies in order to accuse France of war crimes. Paris subsequently notably reaffirmed its “vigilance with regard to any attempt to manipulate information”.