United Nations (AFP) – The United Nations is facing the midst of what Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called an “unprecedented” six-month exodus from Mali on the orders of the West African country’s military junta, which has brought in mercenaries from Russia. Wagner Group To help fight the Islamic insurgency.
The UN Special Envoy to Mali, Alkassim Wani, presented the scale of the operation to the UN Security Council on Monday: All 12,947 UN peacekeepers and police must be sent home, and their 12 camps and one temporary base handed over to the government. 1,786 civilian employees had been terminated by the December 31 deadline.
Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations, Issa Konforo, said the government was cooperating with the UN peacekeeping mission, known as MINUSMA, but would not extend the deadline.
The UN also needs to move nearly 5,500 sea containers of equipment and 4,000 vehicles from the UN and countries that have contributed personnel to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), the fourth-largest UN peacekeeping operation, Wayne said. which number dozens.
This process has begun but will continue during the “liquidation” period which will start on January 1, 2024 and last for 18 months, with the UN keeping the police in the three centers in the capital Bamako, Gao and Timbuktu where the equipment is being deployed. being collected.
Mali has been in turmoil since the 2012 military coup, which was followed by the formation of the Islamic State by rebels in the north two months later.
The extremist rebels were driven from power in the north with the help of a French-led military operation, but they moved from the arid north to the more populous central Mali in 2015 and are still active.
In August 2020, the President of Mali was overthrown in a coup that included an army colonel who carried out a second coup and was sworn in as president in June 2021. He developed his relations with the Russian military and the Wagner Group, which he heads, Yevgeny Prigozhin was reportedly killed in a plane crash On a flight from Moscow last week.
The United Nations deployed peacekeepers in 2013, and the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) became the most dangerous UN mission in the world, with more than 300 personnel killed.
In a 13-page letter to Security Council members distributed on Monday, Guterres said the “timetable, scope and complexity of the mission’s withdrawal is unprecedented.”
He said, “The landlocked country’s vast terrain hostile work environment Certain regions and their climates make mission withdrawal within a six-month time frame very difficult.
Guterres said the logistics of moving troops and equipment are being further constrained by the presence of “terrorist armed groups” and the recent military takeover of Niger, a major transit country.
United Nations experts said in a report last week that Islamic State extremists have nearly doubled the territory They have taken control of Mali in less than a year, and their al-Qaeda-linked rivals are also benefiting from the impasse and perceived weakness of the armed groups that signed the 2015 peace deal.
UN envoy Wayne told the Security Council that the first phase of the withdrawal focused on closing the smallest and most remote outposts – Menaka, Bir, Gundam and the temporary base at Ogosago – which was completed on 25 August.
The withdrawal from the land was made two days earlier due to the clashes that erupted in the camp, and the United Nations convoys leaving the camp were attacked without causing casualties.
“The armed terrorist groups carried out aggressive actions to prevent the Malian security and armed forces from occupying the camp” in Bir, Konforo said from Mali.
France’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Nathalie Broadhurst, told the council that the clashes in Bir took place “with the participation of Wagner mercenaries” and were a serious violation of the ceasefire and the 2015 peace deal.
American ambassador Linda Thomas Greenfield He also expressed his concern about the resumption of hostilities in northern Mali, including in Bir.
“In addition, the withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) limits the international community’s ability to protect civilians from Wagner attacks, whose activities contribute to further insecurity in the country,” she added.
Russia’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, Dmitry Polyansky, did not mention Wagner, but said: “Russia will continue to provide comprehensive assistance to Mali and other interested African partners on a bilateral, equal and mutually respectful basis.”
UN envoy Wayne said the second and final phase of the troop withdrawal, which begins on Sept. 1, “will be very difficult” because of the long distances needed for convoys evacuating troops and equipment, including through hostile territory — 563 kilometers in the case of Syria. Tessalit camp.
Wine stressed that the withdrawal was taking place at a time when the 2015 peace agreement between the government, pro-government militia and coalition of groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali was paralyzed.
“This agreement is the cornerstone of Mali’s long-term stability,” he added.