If the situation within France's borders is complicated, it is no less so outside them. While Emmanuel Macron is trying to appease the protests that are causing serious destruction in the streets of his country, from Mali, the media outlet L'Aube publishes information that directly accuses Paris of financing the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (JNIM) - a jihadist group affiliated with al-Qaeda - through millionaire ransom payments. In addition to the already complicated context that France is going through in North Africa due to tensions with Morocco and Algeria, this information only makes France, which is going through one of its most delicate moments in foreign policy, worse off.
From Bamako, they point out that "this multifaceted support manifests itself in the payment of ransoms to kidnappers affiliated with terrorist groups". According to local sources, the French government is said to have paid a ransom of between 12 and 13 million euros for the release of the French journalist Olivier Dubois and the American missionary Jeffrey Woodke. The two had been held hostage by the al-Qaeda affiliated group for two and seven years respectively. This is not the first time that France has been blamed for this type of payment, but it is worrying because the Malian media itself claims that the aim of the payments was to arm the terrorist group.
The more than ten million euros that Paris allegedly provided to JNIM were intended for the purchase of arms and ammunition by the organisation. In addition, L'Aube reports that the agreement is said to have had the help of the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum. Previously, Le Monde had reported that France had paid between 20 and 25 million euros to the kidnappers of Thierry Dol, Marc Féret, Daniel Larribe and Pierre Legrand, who were held hostage in Niger for more than a thousand days and released in 2013.
A year after the release of the four French citizens, the New York Times published an investigation in which France was described as "the champion of ransom payments to al-Qaeda", on the basis of the numerous payments made during those years. In fact, the total amount disbursed by Paris was estimated at 58 million euros since 2008, i.e. a figure of around ten million per year. These figures were harshly criticised by the US media, which compared the French position with the constant refusals of the US and the UK in the face of blackmail by terrorist groups.
From Mali, they criticise Emmanuel Macron's government because Bamako has flatly refused to negotiate with terrorists. However, the fact that France has decided to agree to this million-dollar payment has generated significant unease in Mali, which has taken its complaint to the United Nations Security Council. Above all, they are doing so because the JINM's current situation is not particularly buoyant, and Daesh has a great strategic advantage in the region. Hence, French economic support could boost the al-Qaeda affiliate in what could translate into an escalation of tension in the Sahel.