Malian military accused of torture and executions ahead of EU mission arrival
Last March a coup by junior officers toppled president Amadou Toumani Toure and caused the military to fracture into rival elements.
Speaking this week in Bamako, EUTM head Gen Lecointre said the EU should complement its training mission by providing equipment such as uniforms, vehicles and communications technology.
He argued that equipping the “very impoverished” and disorganised Malian army was as crucial as training it.
“I know the Malian state is poor, but the Malian army is more than poor,” the French general said. He added he would be raising the need to provide equipment in a report to EU member states next month.
This is not the first time Mali’s army has received foreign training. Several battalions that fled the rebel advance last year were trained by US military personnel. The leader of last year’s coup, Capt Amadou Sanogo, underwent training in the US.
But the chief of the Malian armed forces Gen Ibrahima Dembele said this week that US training had failed to bring cohesion to the military and he hoped the EU training would achieve this.
The Irish team will work alongside personnel from the first battalion of the UK’s Royal Irish Regiment, making the Mali mission the first time a joint UK/Irish military contingent has been deployed on any such operation.
Malian forces: Background
Official records state that the Malian defence forces comprise an army (Armée de Terre), the Republic of Mali air force (Force Aerienne de la Republique du Mali, FARM), and the national guard (Garde National du Mali).
They number in total 7,000 personnel and are under the political control of minister of armed forces and veterans.
However, the country’s military is also deemed to be “underpaid, poorly equipped, and in need of rationalisation”.
“Its organisation has suffered from the incorporation of Tuareg irregular forces into the regular military following a 1992 agreement between the government and Tuareg rebel forces,” according to one assessment.*
Four years ago, estimates of personnel between the services were: army 7,350, air force 400, navy of 50. The Gendarmerie and local police forces (under the ministry of interior and security) maintain internal security, with personnel estimated at 4,800 strong – 1,800 Gendarmerie (militarised police), 2,000 Republican Guard, and 1,000 police.
France, the colonial power up to 1960, has been involved in training Malian forces, as has the US and Germany.
* Sources: US Library of Congress country profile 2005; CIA World Factbook (based on information dating from 2008 and 2010); International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS, Military Balance, 2009).