UN Continues Phased Withdrawal from Mali
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is in the process of a phased withdrawal, as stipulated by UN Security Council Resolution 2690.
The resolution calls for a full withdrawal by the end of December 2023. As of now, 3,367 MINUSMA personnel, including military, police, international staff, and UN Volunteers, have left the mission.
This includes 116 Senegalese peacekeepers repatriated from Mopti Camp on September 20. This withdrawal process extends not just to military and police personnel but also to civilian staff.
Background: The Formation and Role of MINUSMA
MINUSMA was established by the UN Security Council in 2013 amidst an uprising in northern Mali by armed groups linked to al Qaeda.
With a mandate to assist Mali in bolstering its security and defense capabilities, support in protecting communities, implement stabilization projects, and facilitate humanitarian access to northern Mali, MINUSMA was launched as the world’s third-largest UN peacekeeping deployment with at least 15,200 peacekeepers.
The decision to end the mission was prompted by the Malian government’s request, which accused MINUSMA of failing to deliver on its fundamental goal of supporting the government in securing the country.
The government also argued that the presence of the mission worsened the security situation in the country and fueled community tensions, leaving people distrustful of the UN. The political climate, marked by two military takeovers in August 2020 and May 2021, further undermined the mission.
Consequences and Risks Associated with the UN Withdrawal
Post-withdrawal, the Malian people’s security is the primary concern. While MINUSMA contributed significantly to protecting civilians, risks will likely increase as the mission winds down. The presence of the mission also helped develop local conflict prevention systems, advance protection, and reduce violence within communities.
The departure of MINUSMA could also aggravate the security crisis precipitated by Wagner Group mercenaries, making it difficult to document some of the organization’s actions in remote parts of Mali.
Mali’s instability has regional ramifications in the Sahel, as violent extremism could spill over into neighboring countries like Niger, Burkina Faso, and the northern borders of Benin and Côte d’Ivoire.
The crisis provides Russia and China with adversarial possibilities against the influence of the West, particularly the United States, in Mali and the Sahel region. The situation could also damage the reputation of the UN and the international community for their perceived inaction.
Future Course: Considerations and Mali’s Future
Given the complexities of the situation, a more nuanced and situation-specific approach to conflict prevention and management is required. Transitioning African Union peace enforcement missions into UN interim missions could be one of the strategies.
Sanctions alone appear ineffective since the military regime has developed coping mechanisms via the power conflicts between China, Russia, and the United States to meet its security needs.
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