On Friday, Mali’s foreign minister made a plea to the UN Security Council, calling for the prompt withdrawal of the peacekeeping mission in his country.
He criticized the mission for its perceived failure to effectively address security challenges.
The military rulers of Mali have progressively imposed limitations on peacekeepers and recently severed the country’s longstanding alliance with former colonial power France.
Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop stated, “The government of Mali insists on the immediate withdrawal of Minusma,” referring to the United Nations force in Mali. However, he expressed the government’s willingness to cooperate with the United Nations on the matter, rejecting any proposed changes to the mission’s mandate put forth by the UN secretary-general.
Diop argued that Minusma had become part of the problem by exacerbating community tensions and contributing to serious allegations that undermine peace, reconciliation, and national unity in Mali. He referred to a recent damning report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, which highlighted the behavior of Malian government troops and foreign allies during an anti-jihadist operation in Moura in March 2022.
– Differences of Opinion –
In January, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres presented three options for amending the mission, ranging from personnel increases to troop withdrawals. In a report released earlier that week, Guterres recommended an intermediate solution, suggesting a “reconfiguration” of the mission to focus on a limited number of priorities.
Following the Security Council meeting, the head of Minusma informed reporters that conducting UN peacekeeping operations without the consent of the host country was “nearly impossible.” El Ghassim Wane stated, “It’s a decision for the council to make. However, the crucial point, which I believe everyone agrees on, is that peacekeeping is based on the principle of consent from the host country. Without that consent, operations are nearly impossible.”
The meeting on Friday highlighted the divisions within the Security Council regarding the future of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali. Established in 2013 to assist in stabilizing a state threatened by jihadist groups, the mission is seen by several countries, including France, the United States, and Britain, as crucial for Mali’s stability and the region as a whole.
On the other hand, Russian ambassador Vassili Nebenzia emphasized that any proposals should align with the opinion of the host country. He argued that the focus should be on the functions of the peacekeepers rather than their numbers. Nebenzia stated that one of Mali’s main priorities should be combating terrorism, which is not explicitly included in the Blue Helmets’ mandate.
Since 2012, the landlocked Sahel state has faced a security crisis due to jihadist and separatist uprisings in the northern region. Since August 2020, Mali has been under the control of a military junta that broke its long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism, turning to Russia for political and military support.
Similar to Mali, Russia dismissed the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ report on the anti-jihadist operation in Moura in 2022 as biased. The report accused the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of executing at least 500 individuals in the area. Although the report did not explicitly identify the foreign fighters, many Western officials implicated the private Russian security company Wagner.
Deputy British ambassador James Kariuki emphasized, “Ultimately, it is up to the Malian transitional authorities to choose their partners. However, let’s be clear: the Wagner Group, whether operating independently or under Moscow’s direct control, is not the solution – neither in Mali nor elsewhere.”
News Agency/ SGP