France's former president François Hollande has questioned the role of the Russian paramilitary outfit Wagner in the fight against jihadists in Mali – branding the group neo-colonials.
In an interview with RFI and France 24, Hollande reflected on his decision 10 years ago to launch the French military operation Serval in Mali.
The 68-year-old said he sanctioned the intervention – later known as Operation Barkhane – at the behest of the Malian authorities and out of a sense of solidarity.
"Recently, I have seen with sorrow the deterioration of this bond of friendship between Mali and France," Hollande said.
"It has deteriorated because the jihadists have continued to strike and the Malians have said to themselves: 'This will never end despite foreign interventions.'
"Are there fewer attacks and fewer jihadist actions since the French left? No, it's worse," Hollande added.
"Jihadism is now even striking in southern Mali. But Wagner is a private group that lives from the predations it carries out. The neo-colonials are Wagner's men."
Hollande, who took over as French leader from Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012, added: "France only came [to Mali] because it was asked to.
"It left because it was no longer wanted. If the Malians want to have relations with a private group, that's their business, with a state other than France, that's their business."
Hollande has remained active in the Socialist party since falling from power in 2017.
He called in the Wagner group.
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