U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali to end on June 30

Nairobi, June 27 (BNA): The United Nations intends to end its ten-year peacekeeping mission in Mali on June 30 and will withdraw all its personnel within six months, according to a draft Security Council resolution proposed by France and seen by Reuters.

The withdrawal of the 13,000-strong mission, known as MINUSMA, follows years of tensions between the United Nations and Mali’s military junta that came to a head this month when Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told the force to leave “without delay”.

Under the draft resolution, UN staff will remain until the end of the year to allow for a transition, but during that period MINUSMA’s activities will be curtailed, including the key support it provides to Malian soldiers.

“The Security Council … has decided to terminate MINUSMA’s mandate as of June 30, 2023,” said the draft resolution circulated to council member states last week. MINUSMA will retain its staff until December 31, 2023, to plan and implement the cessation of operations and the transfer of tasks.

The text was confirmed by two UN officials and a security expert. A draft resolution can still be changed before it is published, but two sources said they did not expect changes to be made.

The 15-member Security Council is scheduled to vote on Thursday.

For a resolution to be adopted, a resolution needs to have at least nine votes in favor and no veto by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France.

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Support for the mission has been waning from Western countries since 2021, with Britain, Germany and Sweden announcing they will withdraw their forces. France had a separate force in Mali but withdrew from it last year after disagreements with the government.

A MINUSMA spokesman declined to comment. The financial authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

“In accordance with the Security Council resolution, the UN stands ready to work with the Malian authorities on the MINUSMA exit plan,” said a spokesperson for the UN peacekeepers.

He said internal discussions are ongoing.

MINUSMA was launched in 2013 after separatist rebels and al-Qaeda-linked rebels occupied northern Mali. The French forces forced the militants to retreat, but they regrouped. Mali has since become the epicenter of a violent movement that has spread across West Africa and forced millions to flee.

More than 170 peacekeepers have died in combat, making MINUSMA the most dangerous ongoing combat mission for the United Nations.

The United Nations was expected to extend its mandate for another year this month, before Mali asked it to leave.

The force has come under criticism from Mali’s military leaders, who consolidated their power over two coups in 2020 and 2021, and from civilians, for not doing more to stop the bloodshed.

The United Nations has repeatedly complained that restrictions on troop and aircraft movements have prevented it from fulfilling its mandate, including investigating alleged human rights abuses by Wagner and the Malian military, allegations it has denied.

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However, many African countries said in discussions this year that MINUSMA would stay and even increase its troop numbers.

It has protected cities like Gao and Timbuktu that are surrounded by militants, provided medical evacuation for Malian soldiers, and flown government officials across the country to avoid driving into conflict zones.

It coordinated talks between rival armed groups in the north in the wake of the 2015 peace deal known as the Algiers Accords, which the signatories now say could fail, and help arrange presidential elections due next year that some hope will see a return to civilian rule.

Under the draft resolution, operations will be curtailed to provide security for United Nations personnel, facilities and convoys. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) will provide medical evacuation for United Nations staff.

According to the draft, with the permission of the Malian authorities, “MINUSMA is authorized to respond to imminent threats of violence against civilians and to contribute to the delivery of humanitarian assistance with safe civilian leadership in its immediate vicinity.”


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