UN peacekeeping mission in Mali ends in failure

2023 09 25 MALI POLITICS scaled
FILE PHOTO: Supporters participate in a demonstration called by Yerewolo Debout sur les remparts, an anti-France political movement, in Bamako, Mali, February 4, 2022. REUTERS/Paul Lorgerie

The United Nations mission in Mali officially concluded its 10-year deployment in the country, as confirmed by its spokesperson. This withdrawal was mandated by Mali’s military government. The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) conducted a symbolic ceremony, lowering the UN flag at its headquarters in Bamako, marking the mission’s official end, although some of its elements remain.

A “liquidation phase” is scheduled to occur after January 1, involving activities such as handing over any remaining equipment to the authorities.

In June, Mali’s military government, which took power in 2020, requested the departure of the mission, in operation since 2013, despite facing attacks by armed groups in the Sahel region. Concerns have arisen that the withdrawal of MINUSMA troops may lead to increased conflict between Malian forces and armed groups vying for territorial control.

Over the past decade, the mission maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali, with approximately 180 members losing their lives in hostile acts. As of Friday, more than 10,500 MINUSMA personnel had left Mali out of the initial 13,800 staff at the start of the withdrawal. The mission has vacated 13 positions but has yet to close sites in Gao and Timbuktu in the north.

Last week, the UN mission handed over the Mopti camp in central Mali, one of the hotbeds of violence that has plagued the Sahel for years. The Mopti camp most recently housed peacekeepers from Bangladesh and Togo, and in the past, hosted Egyptian, Pakistani, and Senegalese contingents. The withdrawal from Mopti went smoothly compared to recent withdrawals in Mali’s volatile north, which occurred amid concerns of military escalation between the army and rebel groups.

Initially welcomed by Malians, the UN troops were expected to assist the Malian military in pushing back rebels who had seized large areas in the north. However, a decade later, the peacekeepers are departing without a resolution to the ongoing instability, resulting in thousands of casualties and hundreds of thousands displaced by violence.

Since seizing power in August 2020, Mali’s government severed ties with former colonial power France, opting for closer relations with Moscow and the private military company Wagner Group. Another military coup occurred in May 2021. The presence of mercenaries has faced criticism from Western nations, asserting that the Wagner Group threatens Mali’s stability. Moscow and Bamako continue to contend that the Russian fighters serve as trainers, assisting local soldiers in combatting rebel groups.

Around two dozen soldiers and at least five civilians were killed when militants attacked a military camp and a village in central Mali on Tuesday, rather than containing the violence, there has been a notable increase since the military junta seized power.

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