Mali’s foreign minister called Friday for the UN Security Council to withdraw the MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in his country “without delay,” denouncing its “failure” to respond to security challenges.
Mali’s Foreign Minister made the bold and significant call for the United Nations Security Council to withdraw the peacekeeping mission from his country without delay. In a stark denunciation of the mission’s perceived failure to address Mali’s security challenges, the foreign minister highlighted the increasing operational restrictions imposed on peacekeepers by the country’s military rulers.
Furthermore, this move reflects Mali’s recent decision to sever its longstanding alliance with former colonial power France. The foreign minister’s plea signals a turning point in Mali’s relationship with international peacekeeping efforts and highlights the urgent need for alternative strategies to ensure lasting peace and stability in the country.
The country’s military rulers have increasingly imposed operational restrictions on peacekeepers and also broke Mali’s longstanding alliance with former colonial power France.
The ruling junta, led by Colonel Assimi Goita , has been increasingly at loggerheads with MINUSMA and other international allies including France .
Security Council members must adopt a resolution to extend MINUSMA’s mandate in Mali by June 30 . A resolution requires at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France to pass.
The military junta rejected traditional Western allies turning to Russia for help in boosting its military capabilities. Western governments are worried about the presence of Russian private military contractor Wagner .
“The government of Mali calls for the withdrawal without delay of Minusma,” the name of the United Nations force in Mali, said Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop.
“However, the government is willing to cooperate with the United Nations on this issue,” Diop said, rejecting all options for changing the mandate of the mission as proposed by the UN secretary-general.
“Minusma seems to have become part of the problem by fueling community tensions exacerbated by extremely serious allegations which are highly detrimental to peace, reconciliation and national cohesion in Mali,” said the minister.
“This situation generates a feeling of distrust among the populations with regard to Minusma,” he added, noting a recent damning report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the behavior of Malian government troops and foreign allies in an anti-jihadist operation in Moura in March 2022.
Mali has been grappling with a protracted conflict since 2012 when various armed groups, including Islamist extremists, seized control of the northern part of the country. The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was established in 2013 with the aim of restoring stability, protecting civilians, and facilitating the political process. However, despite the deployment of thousands of peacekeepers, Mali continues to face persistent security challenges, including ongoing attacks by extremist groups and intercommunal violence.
Withdrawal of MINUSMA Peacekeeping Mission
Mali’s Foreign Minister’s call for the UN Security Council to withdraw the peacekeeping mission reflects growing dissatisfaction with MINUSMA’s inability to effectively address the country’s security concerns. The foreign minister’s frustration stems from the perceived failure of the mission to adapt to evolving security dynamics and its limited success in protecting civilians and facilitating the political process.
Furthermore, the foreign minister highlights the increasing operational restrictions imposed on peacekeepers by the military rulers of Mali. Such restrictions can hamper the mission’s ability to fulfill its mandate effectively and place the lives of peacekeepers at greater risk. The strained relationship between Mali’s military rulers and the UN peacekeeping mission has undoubtedly contributed to the foreign minister’s call for withdrawal.
Components partners of MINUSMA forces has since withdrawn most of their forces and equipment from Mali.
In June last year, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali (MINUSMA), was left in urgent need of armed helicopters when Ukrainian peacekeepers left the country to join their brothers-in-arms in defending their country against the Russian invasion.
Late last year, Ivory Coast began gradually pulling out its forces and police from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).
The withdrawal comes after former colonial power France, and then Britain pulling out its 300 troops from the peacekeeping force.
While in August 2022, France withdrew its troops which have been in Mali for more than a decade, after a dispute about Malian air space violations, and the presence of hundreds of Russian mercenaries from the Kremlin-linked Wagner Group.
Likewise, Germany withdrew after suspending its operations when the Malian government denied flyover rights to Berlins airborne forces.
UN chief Antonio Guterres in January put forward three options for amending the mission, from an increase in personnel to a withdrawal of troops.
In a report published at the beginning of the week, he recommended to the Council an intermediate solution, to “reconfigure” the mission to concentrate on a limited number of priorities.
After the Security Council meeting, Minusma’s head told reporters that conducting UN peacekeeping operations was “nearly impossible” without the consent of the host country.
“It’s a decision that the council has to make,” said El Ghassim Wane.
“But the point I’m making, and I believe it’s a point that everyone agrees on, is that peacekeeping is based on the principle of consent from the host country and absent that consent, of course operations are nearly impossible,” he added.
Friday’s meeting underscored the divisions within the Security Council on how to go forward with the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, established in 2013 to help stabilize a state threatened with collapse under the burgeoning threat from jihadist groups.
Several countries, including France, which is in charge of drafting resolutions on Mali, the United States and Britain, have underlined the importance of Minusma, which French ambassador Nicolas de Riviere called “an important issue for Mali but also for the stability of the whole region.”
On the other hand, Russian ambassador Vassili Nebenzia said that “any proposals here should be based on the opinion of the host country.”
“The real issue is not the number of peacekeepers but their functions,” he said, adding that one of the key tasks for the government of Mali was “fighting terrorism, which is not provided for in the mandate of the Blue Helmets.”
Severing Ties with France
Another significant factor that has influenced Mali’s foreign minister’s plea is the country’s decision to break its longstanding alliance with France, its former colonial power. Mali’s military rulers, who assumed power through a coup in 2020, have accused France of failing to support the country adequately in its fight against extremists and have sought alternative partnerships, including with Russia and other countries.
This rupture in the Mali-France alliance further complicates the role and effectiveness of international peacekeeping efforts. It underscores the need for Mali to reevaluate its foreign policy priorities and seek new avenues for security cooperation beyond traditional partnerships.
The landlocked Sahel state has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012.
It has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism and turned to Russia for political and military assistance.
Like Mali, Moscow also deemed the report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the anti-jihadist operation in Moura in 2022 as “openly biased.”
That report accused the Malian army and “foreign” fighters of having executed at least 500 people in the area.
While the UN did not explicitly state who the foreign fighters were, many Western officials have pointed the finger at the private Russian security company Wagner.
“Ultimately it is for the Malian transitional authorities to choose its partners. But let’s be clear: the Wagner Group, whether operating autonomously or under direct control from Moscow, is not the answer – in Mali or anywhere else,” said deputy British ambassador James Kariuki on Friday.
The Way Forward
The foreign minister’s call for the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali should be seen as a wake-up call for the international community. It underscores the urgent need for a comprehensive reassessment of the current approach to peacekeeping in the country.
Mali and the international community must now explore alternative strategies to address the country’s security challenges and promote stability. This could include increased regional cooperation, bolstering the capacity of Malian security forces, and supporting inclusive and sustainable peace processes that involve all stakeholders, including local communities and civil society organizations.
While the withdrawal of MINUSMA may present challenges, it also presents an opportunity to recalibrate peacekeeping efforts in Mali and devise a more effective and locally owned approach to peacebuilding. The international community must prioritize the protection of civilians and work closely with Malian authorities to address the root causes of conflict and extremism.
Firstly, bolstering the capacity of Malian security forces is essential for long-term stability. This involves providing adequate training, resources, and equipment to enable them to effectively address security challenges within the country. By enhancing the capabilities of the national security forces, Mali can gradually assume greater responsibility for its own security, reducing its dependence on international peacekeeping missions.
Secondly, regional cooperation is crucial in addressing the transnational nature of the security threats faced by Mali. Collaboration among neighboring countries, such as Niger, Burkina Faso, and Mauritania, is vital to tackle cross-border movements of armed groups and prevent them from exploiting weak governance structures. By strengthening regional partnerships, intelligence-sharing, and joint operations, the countries can collectively address the security challenges that affect the entire Sahel region.
Furthermore, supporting inclusive and sustainable peace processes is essential for building a stable and peaceful Mali. It is imperative to engage all stakeholders, including local communities, civil society organizations, and marginalized groups, in shaping the country’s future. Inclusive peace processes that prioritize dialogue, reconciliation, and the addressing of grievances can help build social cohesion, prevent future conflicts, and establish a foundation for lasting peace.
The international community has a crucial role to play in supporting Mali’s efforts. Rather than completely withdrawing, the UN and other relevant actors can shift their approach towards providing technical assistance, advisory support, and capacity-building programs to enhance the effectiveness of Malian institutions. This collaborative approach ensures that Mali takes ownership of its own security and development while benefiting from the knowledge and expertise of international partners.
In conclusion, the foreign minister of Mali’s call for the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping mission highlights the perceived shortcomings of MINUSMA and the strained relationship between Mali’s military rulers and the international community.
This moment presents an opportunity for Mali and its partners to reevaluate their strategies and work together to find alternative approaches to address security challenges. By focusing on strengthening the capacity of Malian security forces, promoting regional cooperation, and supporting inclusive peace processes, Mali can chart a path towards lasting peace and stability.
The international community must stand ready to provide the necessary support and assistance to help Mali navigate this critical transition effectively.