West Africa: Mali's government wants UN peacekeeping mission Minusma to withdraw

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has asked the UN Security Council in New York to withdraw the Minusma peacekeeping mission.

West Africa: Mali's government wants UN peacekeeping mission Minusma to withdraw

Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop has asked the UN Security Council in New York to withdraw the Minusma peacekeeping mission. The operation with more than 10,000 blue helmets, which also includes hundreds of Bundeswehr soldiers, has not been able to react adequately to the tense security situation in the country over the past ten years, but has become "part of the problem", said Diop. "Against this background, the Malian government is calling for the immediate withdrawal of Minusma. However, the government is ready to work with the United Nations in this regard."

The country's military government under Colonel Assimi Goïta, which seized power in 2020 and again in 2021, relies on close cooperation with Russia. While the junta only speaks of military trainers, it is estimated that up to 2,000 mercenaries from the Russian Wagner Group are active in the country. The Malian government hopes that this will result in more robust action against the Islamist rebels, who are close to the IS or al-Qaeda terrorist militias and have been spreading through Mali for over a decade.

Mali must agree to the peacekeeping mission

Among other things, the French had ended their participation in Minusma because of this. Germany actually wants to withdraw its soldiers by May 31, 2024. The Bundeswehr has been involved in the blue helmet mission to stabilize the country for ten years, but has recently been repeatedly obstructed by the government. For example, they refused flight permits for the Heron reconnaissance drone operated by the Germans on behalf of the UN.

The United Nations depend on the consent of the country concerned to operate a peacekeeping mission. It is still unclear whether Diop's statements before the Security Council count as an official position or whether a letter from the government is also required, for example. The mandate of Minusma should have been extended by another year by the UN Security Council until June 30th. Should Mali demand the withdrawal, the mandate cannot be extended. The Bundeswehr would probably have to withdraw earlier than planned.

Executions and rapes in the village of Moura?

"Relations between Mali and MINUSMA have deteriorated since the Russians arrived. Mali does not want MINUSMA to investigate human rights abuses by the army and Russians. The report on the Moura massacre has finally torn the tablecloth," said the Sahel bureau chief Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Ulf Laessing. In May, the UN presented a report on serious human rights violations during a deployment by the Malian army and foreign troops against Islamists in March 2022. There was talk of more than 500 deaths, executions and rapes in the village of Moura in the central Malian region of Mopti.

Mali's foreign minister again rejected "the hasty conclusions of the biased report" on Friday. "We see in this report a real determination by some states to use our common organization as an instrument to harm or even punish Mali for its sovereign decisions," said Diop. The junta had already put up a sharp fight back in May, saying that no civilians from Moura were killed.

According to the report, on March 27, 2022, a military helicopter flew over the village and opened fire, while other helicopters with soldiers landed. Some Islamist fighters shot out of the crowd. According to the report, at least 500 people were executed in the following four days. The UN team had the names of almost 240 victims. At least 58 women and girls were raped. According to the report, witnesses said that "armed white men" were also on site.

"Withdrawal would worsen the security situation"

The security situation, especially in the center of the country, has not improved since the government changed course. On the contrary, experts are observing that tougher action is giving the Islamist rebels more support. According to earlier information, around 12,000 soldiers are still deployed in Mali as part of the UN stabilization mission. The Germans are mainly deployed near the city of Gao in the northeast of the country, where there are also several refugee camps with tens of thousands of people. Mali is considered the UN's most dangerous peacekeeping mission, and blue helmets keep dying.

KAS expert Laessing said: "The withdrawal would further worsen the security situation. Minusma is also building schools, equipping police stations - it is replacing the state, which is not present in the area. Thousands would be unemployed overnight, who, for lack of alternatives, turned to bandits or jihadists would join." Minusma provides security in cities, where internally displaced people move to escape the terrorist militias. "They would then continue to flee to Niger and on the Libya route."