Moscow delivers severe warning from the Sahel


Published on Tuesday 23 April 2024 Back to articles

Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov (L) and Algeria’s Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf (R)

On 13 April, Foreign Minister Ahmed Attaf received Russia’s influential Deputy Foreign Minister and Special Representative of the Russian President for the Middle East and Africa, Mikhail Bogdanov. No details of the talks were given, other than they concerned developments in the Sahara-Sahel and the Palestinian question.

The following day, Lounès Magramane — Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the National Community Abroad — and Bogdanov co-chaired the second session of Algerian-Russian political consultations. Again, no information was given as to what was discussed, other than it related to ‘numerous regional and international issues of common interest.’

At the time, we did not mention these meetings, because we did not know why they were being held, but suspected that they might have been an attempt to repair the damaged bilateral relations. We could not have been more wrong! We have now learnt that the reason for Bogdanov’s visit was to deliver a severe warning on behalf of the military juntas in Niger and Mali. It related to Algeria’s controversial positions towards: separatist movements and notably the Tuareg; armed groups including Iyad ag Ghali’s Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM)); and radical political figures allegedly threatening the stability of the two countries, notably Mali’s Imam Mahmoud Dicko.

The message was summed up very clearly and precisely by a diplomatic source close to the discussions: ‘Do not do like France; never interfere in our internal affairs again; stop supporting radical movements that threaten our security; and maintain no contact with our national opponents. Otherwise, you will suffer the same fate as France.’

Bogdanov’s delegation explained that Algeria is now dangerously and pejoratively demonised by Moscow’s two new client states because of its ‘imperialist’ behaviour which, according to the Russian interlocutors, resembles a pale copy of the haughty and paternalistic behaviour of France in Niger and Mali. The message went on to say that juntas will no longer tolerate any interference from Algiers and categorically refuse to allow it to approach national opposition figures in the way that the Tebboune regime has been doing with Dicko.

Furthermore, the juntas demand that Algeria stop fostering any links to armed, separatist or terrorist movements that roam the region. If these demands are not met, Bamako and Niamey have made it clear that they will not hesitate to sever relations with Algeria and blacklist it forever. 

Given the tone of the message, it would seem that there are no relations left to sever. Moreover, given the civil unrest brewing in Mali against the junta and its Russian allies (Algeria Politics & Security – 16.04.24), it is unlikely that Algiers will do little more than note the message.

This excerpt is taken from our Algeria Politics & Security weekly intelligence report. Click here to receive a free sample copy. Contact for subscription details.

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