The United Nations Security Council has concluded the peacekeeping mission in Mali, following a request from the ruling military to withdraw the international force involved in combating an armed rebellion.
The mission, known as MINUSMA, has faced challenges and government restrictions in recent years, particularly after Mali collaborated with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in 2021.
In a resolution drafted by France, the 15-member Council unanimously called for the mission to begin the process of ending its operations, transferring its tasks, and safely withdrawing its personnel. The objective is to complete this process by December 31, 2023.
UN peacekeepers have played a crucial role in protecting civilians from the violence of the armed rebellion, which has resulted in the loss of many lives. Concerns have been raised about the security situation deteriorating once the mission leaves, as Mali’s under-equipped army will be left to face fighters who control significant portions of territory in the desert regions of the north and center, along with around 1,000 Wagner fighters.
The Security Council resolution grants MINUSMA the authority to respond to imminent threats of violence against civilians in its immediate vicinity and contribute to the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance, with civilian leadership, until September 30.
It asked UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to work with the Malian authorities on a plan to transfer MINUSMA’s tasks and present it to the Security Council by August 15. It called on Mali to cooperate fully with the UN during MINUSMA’s withdrawal.
When asking for MINUSMA to leave, Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop told the Security Council earlier this month there was a “crisis of confidence” between the UN operation and the Malian authorities.
Until December 31, MINUSMA is also authorised to provide security for UN personnel, facilities, convoys, installations and equipment and associated personnel, and execute operations to extract UN personnel and humanitarian workers in danger and provide medical evacuations.
The United States deputy ambassador, Jeffrey DeLaurentis, expressed regret at the military government’s decision to abandon the UN mission. He also said “some domestic actors” in Mali are calling for harassment of peacekeepers and urged the mission to ensure the safe and orderly transfer of UN facilities and equipment to UN-designated places.
“The UN has a responsibility to minimise the risk that its assets fall into the hands of those looking to destabilise Mali, or bring harm to its people, including violent extremist organisations and the Wagner Group,” he said.
The United Kingdom’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Barbara Woodward, expressed her disappointment that Mali requested the departure of peacekeepers during a period when the region is experiencing escalating instability and humanitarian challenges.
On the other hand, Russia’s Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, reaffirmed his country’s unwavering support for Mali, both in terms of military-technical assistance and humanitarian and economic aid.
Mali has been grappling with an armed rebellion since a revolt in 2012. In response, the UN Security Council deployed MINUSMA in 2013 to assist in the restoration of stability through international and local efforts.