UN peacekeepers concerned about their expulsion from Mali due to opportunistic armed forces ahead of mission completion –
In a little over two months, nearly 13,000 UN peacekeepers are scheduled to leave Mali after a decade-long mission that claimed the lives of at least 300 peacekeepers.
However, the UN peacekeepers, known as “Blue Helmets,” are facing increasing risks as armed groups exploit the transition period in northern Mali.
The UN Secretary-General’s office has expressed concerns that the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) may not be able to complete its withdrawal by December 31 if the security situation does not improve.
This precarious situation also endangers the mission’s air operations aimed at protecting its drawdown and facilitating its departure.
MINUSMA currently operates twelve fully equipped camps and one temporary camp in Mali. These camps are expected to be handed over to the Malian government by the end of December. However, there are concerns that the ongoing instability may result in MINUSMA leaving behind equipment that should be redeployed to other crisis areas in Africa or returned to the contributing countries.
The UN has warned that the heightened tensions in northern Mali increase the likelihood of the mission being forced to depart without retrieving equipment belonging to troop-contributing countries or the UN itself. Since late September, the mission has faced obstacles in retrieving equipment from certain areas due to blocked logistics convoys.
The Mali mission has been the most financially burdensome for the UN in Africa, with an annual cost of $1.2 billion. In June of this year, the UN approved an additional $590 million to sustain MINUSMA until the end of the year. The Security Council established MINUSMA in 2013 to support Mali’s political processes and carry out various security-related tasks.
MINUSMA’s departure was initiated by Mali’s military transition authority, which opted to engage the Russian paramilitary group, Wagner Group. Recent reports indicate that Wagner Group has already begun positioning itself to take control of areas from which MINUSMA is withdrawing.
Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, Abdoulaye Diop, has responded to concerns about the mission’s potential failure to meet the December 31 deadline, assuring that all necessary measures will be taken to adhere to the timeline without any extensions granted.
(Note: The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, which provides support to the Africa Desk responsible for producing these stories.)