On Tuesday, January 31, 2022, the United Nations announced that they wanted to conduct an independent investigation into the war crimes committed by Wagner in Mali. We are going to look back at one of these tragedies that took place in Moura, a village in which approximately 400 Malians were executed by Russian mercenaries of the Wagner group. One year after this massacre, which made headlines in Mali, the arrival of mercenaries has not improved the situation in the country. On the contrary, living conditions of the local population have deteriorated even further.
It is March 27, 2022, and the sun is shining over the town of Moura and its market, renowned in the region for its livestock, attracting many inhabitants of the village and its surroundings before the beginning of Ramadan.
While rumors of an assault by the Malian army on Moura, controlled by the terrorist group ‘Katiba Macina’ at that time, are already circulating in the streets on this Sunday morning, no one expects the siege that the town and its inhabitants are about to undergo. It is around 11:00 a.m. when the ordeal begins: as military helicopters are hovering over Moura, the crowd, panicking and trying to flee, is fired upon from above. At that moment, it is already too late, the village is surrounded by armed men.
Summary executions, rape and torture: all means are used to terrorize, punish and subjugate the village population.
A few minutes later, the helicopters land. To the surprise of the inhabitants, it is not Malian soldiers, but “white men” who “do not speak French” that can be seen exciting the aircraft. They are the ones who fired indiscriminately on the crowd as they flew over the village, and they are the ones who are about to commit one of the biggest massacres on Malian soil.
These men were quickly identified as mercenaries belonging to the Russian private military company Wagner. Many former Russian military personnel, but also criminals like Ivan Maslov, who we have written about on our blog, are members of this PMC.
During the 4 days of siege that will follow, they will commit the most heinous crimes against the residents of Moura. Summary executions, rape and torture: all means are used to punish, terrorize and subjugate the village population. The violence the mercenaries inflict on the inhabitants is indiscriminate and affects absolutely everyone. While it is mostly men who were killed, countless cases of rape and violence against women and children have also been identified.
The slightest suspicion is reason enough to execute someone. In total, it is estimated that about 400 people were killed. Most of the victims had no connection with the terrorists in the village. One of the inhabitants, named Seynou, recalls: “I think I buried fifty bodies in one pit, sixty in another. After a while, I couldn’t keep counting. Some had their skulls broken, it was very hard. “2
None of these victims had the right to a trial. For the Russians, the slightest pretext is enough: having a long beard, possessing a cell phone, belonging to a certain ethnic group and even wearing specific clothes may constitute sufficient ground for an execution. During 5 days of occupation, these foreign mercenaries assumed the role of judge, jury and executioner in this village, indiscriminately exercising their violence and flagrantly violating the sovereignty of a free and independent state.
While these atrocities continue to shock, they are nothing new and the methods of the Wagner group are well documented. The pattern is the same wherever they are and exactions are systematically committed. We could mention the murder of a Syrian citizen accused of deserting the Syrian army, whose torture and beheading was proudly filmed and posted online by members of the group, shocking public opinion around the world, including in Russia, to illustrate this fact. In Mali, Wagner’s actions have left a trail of blood in Moura, but also in Gossi or Hombori.
Wagner’s predation continues to have serious consequences for local communities, who find themselves impoverished and sometimes even dispossessed of their only means of subsistence.
The establishment of this Russian PMC in Mali has been a clear failure, as the arrival of mercenaries has not reversed the trend against jihadist forces (who now control a significant portion of Malian territory). On the contrary, their presence has brought even more instability to a country already in crisis and it disrupts the lives of many Malian citizens who are victims of their crimes. In addition to the violence committed by this group, Wagner mercenaries steal, pillage and exploit local communities to enrich themselves. They are known for their cruelty and limitless appetite, confiscating livestock from local populations and seizing and exploiting many gemstone and mineral mines, particularly in CAR.
Wagner’s predation continues to have serious consequences for these communities, who find themselves impoverished and sometimes even dispossessed of their only means of subsistence. One year after the Moura massacre, the conflict continues to rage and Mali finds itself, 62 years after its independence, occupied by foreign mercenaries behaving like colonialists with barbaric methods.
The trail of blood left by the group in Mali and other African countries in which it is established does not bode well for the future…
The Moura massacre shows us that Russian mercenaries have not been able to stop the advance of the jihadists or regain control of occupied territories. It is also difficult to imagine the local population being enthusiastic about being “liberated” by foreign mercenaries and adhering to the Wagner “methods”… The trail of blood left by the PMC in Mali and other African countries in which it is established does not bode well for the future and reminds us of the darkest times of the continent.