Monday, 16 October 2023 06:39

UN voices concern over obstacles to Mali mission’s orderly withdrawal

MINUSMA/Harandane Dicko
Peacekeepers from the Nigerien contingent of MINUSMA patrol the Ménaka region of Mali.

Heightened tensions and the increasingly hostile presence of armed groups in northern Mali are likely to impede the departure of the UN Stabilization Mission there (MINUSMA), the UN said in a note to correspondents issued on Saturday.

The peacekeeping mission which for many years has been the deadliest place to serve as a UN ‘blue helmet’, is due to draw down fully by 31 December, in accordance with its Security Council mandate.

At that point, MINUSMA’s 12 camps and one temporary operating base will be closed and handed over the transitional authorities there. Since it was established 10 years ago, over 300 peacekeepers have lost their lives amid continuing extremist violence and rampant insecurity across much of northern and central Mali.

Timely withdrawal

Close to 13,000 uniformed personnel will be repatriated, and civilian staff will leave while equipment is due to be relocated to other missions or repatriated to those countries which supplied items such as vehicles.

The UN said it was still determined to complete the withdrawal by the deadline following Mali’s request to leave without delay.

MINUSMA said it had been working hard to meet the deadline, but since 24 September its logistics convoys have not been allowed to move from Gao to retrieve equipment from Aguelhok, Tessalit, and Kidal.

This could “adversely impact the Mission’s ability to adhere to the stipulated timeline”.

Withdrawal without retrieval

A spike in tensions in Northern Mali, the note says, increases the likelihood of the Mission being forced to depart without being able to retrieve equipment belonging to Troop-Contributing Countries or to the UN, resulting in significant financial losses and potentially preventing the UN from distributing it to other peace operations.

The situation also jeopardizes the air operations conducted by the Mission to protect its drawdown and ensure the safety of all personnel.

As all parties in the process have the obligation to refrain from any action or statement that could jeopardize a safe and timely exit, the UN also stressed that Security Council resolution 2690 calls upon Malian authorities to cooperate fully with UN peacekeeping during the drawdown, withdrawal, and liquidation.