Minusma’s departure: between Mali and the UN, a divorce has become inevitable

The United Nations Security Council on Friday approved the end of Minusma, the peacekeeping force’s mission in Mali, with an accelerated departure within six months, in accordance with the wishes of the Malian transitional government. returns to the role of this force that was present on the ground for ten years, which fell into disgrace with the arrival of the military to power.

The UN Security Council put an immediate end, on Friday 30 June, to the peacekeeping mission of peacekeepers in Mali (Minusma) – a withdrawal that was demanded by Bamako.

The unanimously adopted resolution puts an end to Minusma’s mission “from June 30” and stipulates that from July 1 the Blue Helmets will cease their activities to organize their departure “by June 31”, formalizing the end of the deployed mission since 2013 to support the political process in this country and protect civilians.

“Realism forces a recognition of the failure of Minusma, whose mandate does not meet the security challenges,” Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said on June 16, two weeks before the vote on the annual renewal of the UN. mission in Mali. He then threw a rock into the pond and demanded the “withdrawal without delay” of the UN force.

After intense negotiations, the two sides finally agreed to an accelerated departure within six months, a break that comes amid tensions between the ruling military and the United Nations, and while the country still faces a serious security crisis.

Stabilization mission after the crisis in 2013

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) was created in the wake of the French military intervention in January 2013. Launched by President François Hollande at the request of the Malian authorities, Operation Serval allows to counter the advance of a coalition of Tuareg and radical Islamists against Bamako.

However, as serious security threats continue, especially in the north, the interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, is requesting the United Nations to establish a stabilization and peacekeeping operation in the country, officially established on 25 April 2013.

Registration of human casualties

Consisting of 11,700 soldiers and 1,600 police officers deployed by more than 55 countries, Minusma’s mission is to protect populations, prevent the return of armed elements to their strongholds and support the restoration of state authority throughout the territory. But the fulfillment of his mandate comes up against the deteriorating security context.

Operation Barkhane, launched in August 2014 to curb the terrorist threat across the Sahel, is struggling to cope with its 5,000 men in this vast territory of three million square kilometres. For a time confined to the north, the terrorist threat is gaining ground in the center, in the “three borders” zone (Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger). Armed Islamist groups linked to Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization are increasing their attacks on the civilian population and the blue helmets that are supposed to protect them.

Since 2015, Minusma has held the sad record of having the highest number of human casualties within UN missions prior to the operation in Darfur. Per June 30, 2023, the organization has counted 174 people dead in attacks since the start of the mission ten years ago.

Ineffectiveness trial

If differences of opinion already existed behind the scenes between the government of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and the UN, relations have seriously worsened since the military’s arrival in power thanks to two coup d’états, in August 2020 and then May 2021.

The new leaders openly criticized on several occasions the “inefficiency” of Minusma, unable “to provide adequate responses to the security situation in Mali”.

In recent years, the mission’s mandate has been strengthened on several occasions at the request of the Malian authorities to extend beyond a traditional peacekeeping mission. But while it allows for proactive measures, especially for the protection of civilians, Minusma must act in support of the army and is not intended to be an anti-terrorist force.

Saying he is “fully aware” of this reality, Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop believes Minusma’s “maintenance prospects” “do not meet the security requirements of Malians and Malians”.

Half-hearted peace agreement

Since 2015, the UN force must also support the implementation of the agreement on peace and reconciliation in Mali, signed in Algiers, which should enable a political solution with the rebel groups in the north. But here the situation has again come to a standstill.

“This agreement has now stalled. We have seen a deterioration in the relationship between the government and the signatory armed groups, who have not sat for a number of months in the monitoring committee for the agreement”, analyzes Niagalé Bagayoko, political scientist. , Chairman of the African Security Sector Network.

While the military in power accuses the minusma of interfering in the country’s internal affairs, the armed groups that have signed the agreement, on the contrary, defend its action. The Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), which brings together these main groups, believed that the departure of the UN force would be “a fatal blow deliberately aimed at the peace agreement”.

07:50 Mali: The military junta demands the withdrawal of Minusma © Conflict over human rights

Among the biggest points of contention between the UN force and the Malian transitional authorities is the issue of human rights. In addition to its 13,000 soldiers and police, Minusma includes a civilian component of 1,800 people, including investigators who list the abuses committed in the country. Several reports have thus been published warning of the development of terrorist groups, but also of crimes attributable to Malian forces, to the forces of the Russian Wagner militia – stationed in the country at the request of the Malian authorities – or even to the French army . .

The Malian authorities, who have made sovereignty the spearhead of their policy, take a very dim view of the charges against their soldiers. They accuse the UN of politicizing the issue of human rights to “discredit” the Malian armed forces (Fama). In February, they ordered the expulsion of the director of the human rights department of Minusma, for “destabilizing and subversive actions”.

In this context of strong distrust, the publication in May 2023 of the report on the Moura massacre had the effect of a bombshell. Investigators there conclude that at least 500 people died during the intervention of Malian soldiers and “foreign military personnel” – implying Wagner’s militiamen – from March 27 to 31, 2022 in this village in the middle of the country. , in an area controlled by the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM).

05:35 The massacre in Moura: “this UN report gives more details about the victims and the operations” © FRANCE 24

In response, the Malian authorities announced the opening of an investigation against Minusma for “espionage” and “undermining the state’s external security”, condemning the “secret” use of satellite images. At the same time, the demonstrations have multiplied in Bamako to demand the departure of the UN force, driven by hostile campaigns on social networks.

“Already last year, the renewal of the mission was made on the wire, due to an obvious lack of trust from the authorities in the mission, which they consider too close to France”, analyzes the Malian journalist Malick Konate. “However, the Malian authorities had not planned to request the withdrawal of Minusma in June 2023. They wanted to change its powers so that it would be more offensive militarily and less focused on human rights. There is no doubt that Moura’s report, two months before the annual mission renewal deadline acted as a trigger.”

During negotiations with the Malian authorities, the UN agreed to a total withdrawal by January 2024 and not within a period of eighteen months, as is usually the case for this type of mission.

“Until then, Minusma will only work on his departure and will no longer have a political mandate or an investigation into the issue of human rights”, clarifies Carrie Nooten, correspondent for in New York. “Finally, from October it will no longer be authorized to defend civilians. It is only under these conditions that the Malian diplomats, supported by Russia, have shown themselves satisfied”, she states.

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