Brussels (AFP) – An EU mission to train Mali’s army is “more than ever” justified by the “ramshackle” state of the Malian armed forces, the French general appointed to head the mission said Tuesday.
General François Lecointre told a group of journalists on his return from Bamako that the around 450-strong European Union Training Mission in Mali (EUTM) would be operational 12 or 18 February, with the first Malian soldiers in class “end March, early April”.
Despite fears over the EU’s usual cumbersome pace in kick-starting projects “this mission has been set up quickly”, he said on the sideline of talks between the bloc’s military attaches on the make-up of the mission.
He said there was “a real need to recreate the Malian army, which is in a very ramshackle state.”
“The soldiers are badly trained, badly paid and under-equipped,” he said.
The around 250 EU trainers, backed by a 150-strong protection force as well as 50 general staff, will be based at the Koulikoro military base some 200 km from the capital, Bamako.
They aim is to train four battalions of 650 men in two-month sessions and include classes on “deontology and ethics”, Lecointre added.
Several EU nations have insisted that the mission underline the need for soldiers to respect people’s rights and moral standards as fears mount of acts of ethnic revenge in the West African nation.
“The credibility of this army will lie in part in its capacity to respect the rule of law,” Lecointre said.
Nations sending soldiers to take part in the mission include France, Spain, Britain, Germany, Sweden and Ireland. Some non-EU states, such as Norway and Canada, may also take part.
“We will do our best to diversify the origin of the trainers even though they will have to be able to speak French, which is spoken in Mali,” he added.