| 19 April 2024, Friday |

France boosts Mali aid after incriminating UN report

France on Tuesday announced an increase in aid to Mali to €6 million this year after the release of an incriminating UN report on a French air strike that killed civilians in the turbulent Sahel nation.

Nathalie Estival-Broadhurst, France’s deputy UN ambassador, said Paris would this year provide an extra €1m to a UN fund focused on the Sahel, where French and other foreign forces are battling an Islamist insurgency.

The humanitarian cash boost came a week after the release of a UN report that bashed France for an air strike on January 3 that killed 19 civilians and three armed men at a wedding in the remote desert of central Mali.

“We all know that stabilising the region requires a significant effort in terms of humanitarian aid and development,” Ms Estival-Broadhurst told the UN Security Council.

“We welcome [UN aid chief] Mark Lowcock’s decision to set up a regional fund for central Western Africa, focused in particular on the Sahel. France will contribute to this to the tune of €1m.”

Investigators with the UN mission in Mali (Minusma) last week concluded that the French air strike had struck a wedding gathering of about 100 civilians in the village of Bounti.

Five armed people, presumed members of Katiba Serma, an Al Qaeda-linked group, were at the celebration, said UN investigators.

France has rejected the findings and questioned the credibility of the report.

Mali’s former colonial master has been embroiled in the conflict since 2013 and has more than 5,000 troops stationed there and in neighboring countries  to battle groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State.

Minusma has deployed more than 13,000 troops to contain violence by armed groups in the north and centre of Mali. It has recorded about 230 fatalities since 2013, making it the deadliest UN blue helmet mission. Four Chadian UN peacekeepers were killed and several others injured

when several “heavily armed terrorists” attacked its base in the northern Mali town of Aguelhok on Friday, said Minusma.

“We condemn this violence in the strongest terms possible, and we commend the bravery and dedication of our peacekeepers,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s UN ambassador, told the council.

“The safety and security of peacekeepers is a priority for the United States and we will continue to take concrete action to strengthen peacekeeper safety.”