The United Nations peace-keeping force in the Republic of Mali will have to withdraw on the orders of the Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop. According to Abdoulaye Diop’s official statement addressed to the UN Security Council on Friday, June 16, it has to “without delay” and the reason was the failure peace-keeping force to security challenges in the country.
The country’s military rulers have increasingly imposed operational restrictions on peacekeepers and also broke Mali’s longstanding alliance with former colonial power France. “The government of Mali calls for the withdrawal without delay of Minusma,” the name of the United Nations force in Mali, said Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.
“However, the government is willing to cooperate with the United Nations on this issue,” Diop said, rejecting all options for changing the mandate of the mission as proposed by the UN secretary-general. “Minusma seems to have become part of the problem by fueling community tensions exacerbated by extremely serious allegations which are highly detrimental to peace, reconciliation and national cohesion in Mali,” said the minister.
“This situation generates a feeling of distrust among the populations with regard to Minusma,” he added, noting a recent damning report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the behavior of Malian government troops and foreign allies in an anti-jihadist operation in Moura in March 2022.
According several media reports, UN chief Antonio Guterres in January put forward three options for amending the mission, from an increase in personnel to a withdrawal of troops. In a report published at the beginning of the week, he recommended to the Council an intermediate solution, to “reconfigure” the mission to concentrate on a limited number of priorities.
After the Security Council meeting, Minusma’s head told reporters that conducting UN peacekeeping operations was “nearly impossible” without the consent of the host country.
“It’s a decision that the council has to make,” said El Ghassim Wane. “But the point I’m making, and I believe it’s a point that everyone agrees on, is that peacekeeping is based on the principle of consent from the host country and absent that consent, of course operations are nearly impossible,” he added.
Friday’s meeting underscored the divisions within the Security Council on how to go forward with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, established in 2013 to help stabilize a state threatened with collapse under the burgeoning threat from jihadist groups.
Several countries, including France, which is in charge of drafting resolutions on Mali, the United States and Britain, have underlined the importance of Minusma, which French ambassador Nicolas de Riviere called “an important issue for Mali but also for the stability of the whole region.”
On the other hand, Russian ambassador Vassili Nebenzia said that “any proposals here should be based on the opinion of the host country.”
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council on Friday that the peacekeeping mission could only be successful if there was “very close coordination with the host country and respect for sovereignty of Mali.”
“The real issue is not the number of peacekeepers but the functions, and one of the key tasks for the government of Mali is fighting terrorism, which is not provided for in the mandate of the blue helmets,” Nebenzia said.
The landlocked Sahel state has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012. It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned to Russia for political and military assistance.
Like Mali, Moscow also deemed the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the anti-jihadist operation in Moura in 2022 as “openly biased.” That report accused the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of having executed at least 500 people in the area.
While the UN did not explicitly state who the foreign fighters were, many Western officials have pointed the finger at the private Russian security company Wagner. Minusma has more than 13,000 troops. Its decade-old mission has failed to stop the spread of jihadist violence. Russian Wagner mercenaries are now assisting Mali’s military rulers.
A report by the UN high commissioner for human rights accused the Malian armed forces and “foreign security personnel” of having killed more than 500 people during an operation in the village of Moura, in central Mali, in March last year. The governments of Mali and Russia both condemned that report.
Western officials have accused Wagner of human rights abuses in Ukraine and parts of Africa, and last month the US announced sanctions on Ivan Maslov, whom it described as Wagner’s top official in Mali. Wagner has not commented on the Western allegations and its activities in Mali and other parts of Africa remain shrouded in secrecy.
“Ultimately it is for the Malian transitional authorities to choose its partners. But let’s be clear: the Wagner Group, whether operating autonomously or under direct control from Moscow, is not the answer – in Mali or anywhere else,” said deputy British ambassador James Kariuki.
The priority tasks of the mission – as mandated by the Security Council – are to help stabilize Mali by supporting a political transition, protect civilians under threat of physical violence, promote and protect human rights and create a secure environment for humanitarian aid deliveries.
Violence has spiralled since 2015 with attacks by groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State spreading to Mali’s neighbours in the Sahel region. Thousands have been killed and over six million displaced, according to the U.N.
The Republic of Mali, home to nearly 20 million people, is a landlocked country located on rivers Senegal and Niger in West Africa. As a former French colony, it persistently faces serious development challenges primarily due to its landlocked position and it is the eighth-largest country in Africa.
Over the years, reform policies have had little impact on the living standards, majority highly impoverished in the country. As a developing country, it ranks at the bottom of the United Nations Development Index (2020 report).