French NGOs in Mali concerned for civilians in wake of suspension

© UNHCR/H. Caux.

French-backed NGOs in Mali fear their future is in limbo after military-run authorities ordered the suspension of their activities earlier this week. The announcement marks a further twist in the downward spiral between the Sahel nation and its former colonial power.

On Monday, Mali declared that all NGOs financed or supported by France would be banned -- a move that strikes at vital aid work in the country.

The junta has given no details as to which NGOs are concerned or the type of support which could lead to their banning. Mali's interim prime minister, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, blamed the ban on a move by France to suspend its development aid for Mali.

France had said this decision was triggered by Mali's use of mercenaries from Russia's Wagner group – personnel that the junta says are military trainers.

Relations started to go downhill after a coup in 2020 that led to Mali weaving closer ties with Russia, and France pulling its anti-jihadist forces out of the country in August.

Regrettable decision

The French government on Monday urged French NGOs to "conform to the regrettable decision of the Malian transitional authorities".

"We are dismayed and angry to see French public aid exploited and NGOs entangled against their will in these games of diplomatic relations," said Olivier Bruyeron, head of Coordination SUD, a coalition of groups that includes around 40 French organisations in Mali.

Organisations backed by France are in the forefront, especially in the provision of healthcare, clean water, electricity and education.

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