Blinken concludes Africa tour by warning Russia-backed group not to interfere in Mali
Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday warned Russia's Wagner Group against interfering in efforts to promote democracy in the West African nation of Mali, AP reports.
Driving the news: "It would be especially unfortunate if outside actors engage in making things even more difficult and more complicated," Blinken said during a news conference in Dakar, Senegal, per AP.
- "[Mali] remains a linchpin for future stability in the Sahel and we have deep concerns about that stability and deep concerns about the extremism and terrorism that is spreading tentacles in the region," said Blinken, who is wrapping up a weeklong visit that included stops in Kenya and Nigeria, in addition to Senegal.
The big picture: Blinken's remarks come as concerns grow about internationally-backed democratic elections, which are scheduled to place in early 2022, per AP.
- The Wagner Group, which is believed to be owned by a businessman with close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, has deployed mercenaries to Syria, the Central African Republic and Libya, drawing criticism from Western governments who also accuse the group of human rights abuses.
What he's saying: "This is ultimately about the people of Mali and their aspirations for peace, their aspirations for development and respect for human rights," Blinken said.
- "We look forward to taking the next steps to resume the full array of assistance as soon as the democratically elected government has taken office."