UN peacekeeping mission in Mali officially ends after 10 years

Members of MINUSMA Chadian contingent patrol in Kidal, Mali in December 2016 [File: Sylvain Liechti/Reuters]

By Al Jazeera, Dec. 11, 2023

The United Nations mission in Mali has officially ended a 10-year deployment in the country, its spokesperson said, in a pullout ordered by Mali’s military government.

The mission, known as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lowered the UN flag in its headquarters in the capital Bamako, its spokesperson Fatoumata Kaba told the AFP news agency on Monday.

The symbolic ceremony marks the official end of the mission, she said, even though some of the elements of it are still there.

A “liquidation phase” will take place after January 1, involving activities such as handing over any remaining equipment to the authorities.

 

A decade of MINUSMA

In June, Mali’s military government, which seized power in 2020, demanded the departure of the mission, deployed since 2013, despite being in the grip of attacks by armed groups in the Sahel region.

The withdrawal of MINUSMA troops has ignited fears that fighting will intensify between Malian forces and armed groups for territorial control.

The mission had maintained about 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali for the past decade. About 180 members have been killed in hostile acts.

As of Friday, more than 10,500 uniformed and civilian MINUSMA personnel had left Mali, out of a total of about 13,800 staff at the start of the withdrawal, the UN mission said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Since being told to leave, MINUSMA has left 13 positions in Mali and 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 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 pullout went smoothly, unlike recent withdrawals in Mali’s volatile north which took place under fears of a military escalation between the army and rebel groups, Kaba told AFP.

 

An unceremonious exit

The UN troops were initially welcomed by Malians who hoped that the foreign soldiers would be able to help the Malian military drive back the rebels who had captured large swaths of land in the north.

Ten years on, however, the peacekeepers are leaving unceremoniously with the instability far from resolved. Thousands of people have been killed, and hundreds of thousands have been displaced by the violence.

After seizing power in August 2020 citing mounting insecurity, Mali’s government ditched the alliance with former colonial power France, preferring rapprochement with Moscow and the private army Wagner Group. Another military takeover happened in May 2021.

The presence of the mercenaries has drawn strong condemnation from Western countries, who argued that the presence of the Wagner threatens Mali’s stability. Moscow and Bamako continue to insist that the Russian fighters are merely trainers helping local soldiers combat rebel groups.

 

Posted Jan. 19, 2023