The United Nations Security Council could vote as early as June 30 on a resolution to end its peacekeeping operation in Mali after the West African government asked the blue helmets earlier this month to leave the country without delay.
The premature withdrawal of the 13 000 strong force, formally known as the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), and which has operated in some of the most dangerous theatres for UN peacekeeping since its inception in 2013, would come after years of tensions between the global organisation and the military Junta that has governed the country since a 2020 coup d’état.
This was the moment in the Security Council almost two weeks ago that gave impetus to discussions around a possible withdrawal, prompting penholder France to circulate a draft resolution that would terminate MINUSMA’s mandate as of June 30 2023, with a transition period for six months, as outlined by Mali Foreign Affairs Minister, Abdoulaye Diop.
“The options proposed by the Secretary-General in his report on the internal review of MINUSMA do not meet the concerns and expectations repeatedly expressed by the government and the populations of Mali. The government of Mali requests withdrawal of MINUSMA without delay. However, the government is prepared to cooperate with the United Nations in this perspective,” says Diop.
The ten-year old mission failed to stem the tide of militant violence emanating from the large swathe that is the Sahel, further complicated by the presence of Russian paramilitary force The Wagner Group at the invitation of Malian authorities.
Western nations accuse the group of human rights abuses in Africa and in Ukraine as questions abound as to its future viability after an attempted mutiny in Russia over the weekend.
Mali’s call for the removal of MINUSMA echoed similar sentiments when it requested last year that French forces end their long-standing military support role against militants in the region.
The UN Secretariat indicated that it would abide by any decision of the Security Council.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special representative of the Secretary General in Mali, says: “We stand to be guided by whatever decision the council may take. But clearly, peacekeeping operations operate on the basis of consent from the host country, and without that consent operating in a specific country would be extremely challenging if not impossible.”
In a statement, the United States said it regretted Mali’s decision to revoke consent for MINUSMA, expressing concern about the effects this decision would have on the security and humanitarian crises impacting the Malian people, calling for an orderly drawdown that prioritises the safety and security of both peacekeepers and Malians.
Secretary General’s Deputy Spokesperson, Farhan Haq, explains.
“As we do with all our peacekeeping missions, to leave the matter of the mandate of the mission in the hands of the Security Council. We are awaiting our instructions from them. We expect that sometime over the course of this week, the Security Council will pronounce itself. And then we will follow in terms of that with planning. So clearly, following the developments on the ground with the government of Mali, we’re trying to see what kind of timetable we have. But, like I said, we’ll wait first for the action of the Security Council before making any announcements about what we’re doing next.”
At least 170 UN peacekeepers have been killed in Mali since the mission’s inception in 2013.