| 24 April 2024, Wednesday |

U.N. peacekeeping mission in Mali to end on June 30, according to a French draft resolution

According to a draft Security Council resolution seen by Reuters, the UN wants to conclude its decade-long peacekeeping deployment in Mali on June 30 and withdraw all forces within six months.

The withdrawal of the 13,000-strong MINUSMA mission would come after years of tensions between the UN and Mali’s military junta reached a head last month, when Mali Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop ordered the force to leave “immediately.”

It would mean an abrupt halt to a mission that has been hobbled by government restrictions since Mali teamed up with Russia’s Wagner mercenary group in 2021. The U.N. mission is credited with playing a vital role in protecting civilians against an Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands.

Experts fear the security situation could worsen when the mission departs, leaving Mali’s under-equipped army alone with about 1,000 Wagner fighters to combat militants who control swaths of territory in the desert north and centre.

Wagner’s operations have also been under question, after the group staged an aborted mutiny at home in Russia on Saturday. Its boss Yevgeny Prigozhin has said the group has been given permission to operate out of Belarus.

Under the draft resolution, U.N. personnel will stay until the end of the year to allow for a transition, but during that period MINUSMA activities will be pared back, including key support it provides to Malian soldiers.

“The Security Council … decides to terminate MINUSMA’s mandate as of June 30 2023,” said the draft resolution circulated among council member states last week. MINUSMA will “maintain its personnel until 31 December 2023, to plan and execute the cessation of operations and transfer of tasks.”

The text was confirmed by two U.N. officials and a security expert. A draft resolution could still be changed before publication, but two of the sources said they expected no changes to be made.

The 15-member Security Council is due to vote on Thursday.

To be adopted, the resolution needs at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes by Russia, China, the United States, Britain or France.

Russia, with its mercenaries operating in Mali, and China, Moscow’s ally, have long been seen as skeptical of MINUSMA.

Support for the mission has begun to ebb from Western countries since 2021, with Britain, Germany and Sweden announcing they would pull their troops out. France had a separate force in Mali but withdrew it last year after disagreements with the government.

A MINUSMA spokesperson declined to comment. Malian authorities did not respond to a request for comment.

A UN peacekeeping spokesperson said: “subject to the decision of the Security Council, the United Nations is ready to work with the Malian authorities on an exit plan for MINUSMA.”

  • Reuters