The UN mission in Mali extended for a year without French air support

The UN mission in Mali extended for a year without French air support

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A patrol of Minusma police officers in Timbuktu, in December 2021.

The UN Security Council decided on Wednesday June 29 to extend the Minusma peacekeeping mission in maliwithout French air support as in the past, which could push European countries to leave this international force of around 15,000 soldiers and police.

“It’s a risk”agrees a diplomat on condition of anonymity, in allusion to the continued commitment of Germany or the United Kingdom in this operation created in 2013, which has now become the most deadly of the UN missions for helmets blue.

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A resolution on the extension of Minusma until June 30, 2023, drafted by France, was adopted by 13 votes out of 15, Russia and China abstaining. Moscow explained its abstention by “intrusive wordings” text on human rights that would oppose Malian sovereignty.

The document provides for maintaining the current workforce – 13,289 soldiers and 1,920 police – and calls on blue helmets to support the application of the 2015 peace agreement, a political transition, the return of state authority in the centre, the protection of civilians and human rights.

“A red line”

A report is requested from the UN Secretary General for January in order to possibly adapt the format of Minusma and study the evolution of its relations with the military junta in power.

At the beginning of June, Bamako had affirmed that there was no question, while the French army is in the process of withdrawing from Mali, of letting Paris continue to act on its territory with its planes based in Chad. Mali refuses that foreign forces leave through the door and return through the window, had then argued to the Security Council the head of Malian diplomacy, Abdoulaye Diop.

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On Monday, he reaffirmed to the media that French air support for blue helmets represented “a red line”. Taking note of this position, Paris withdrew from its initial draft resolution any mention relating to the maintenance of French air support.

In a confidential report submitted to the Security Council, UN experts in charge of sanctions against the jihadist groups Al-Qaeda and Islamic State warn against their development in the Sahel after the French withdrawal from Mali. “The ongoing military reconfiguration in the region could compromise past counter-terrorism efforts”they point out in this document obtained by AFP.

“Violations of international humanitarian law”

The resolution adopted by the Council includes only a small mention in its preamble on the controversial presence of mercenaries from the private Russian company Wagner, denied by Bamako which only admits “instructors” under an old bilateral agreement with Moscow.

The Council condemns “the use of mercenaries and the violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses they commit”, indicates the text, without quoting Wagner by name as wanted by the United States and the United Kingdom, according to a diplomatic source. The resolution maintains in the mandate the protection of human rights that the Malian authorities, supported by Moscow and Beijing, have sought to reduce.

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Blue helmets must “monitor, document, conduct fact-finding missions, assist in the investigation and report publicly and quarterly to the Security Council on violations of international humanitarian law and on human rights violations and abuses”clarifies the text.

Monday, Abdoulaye Diop had deplored “too strong an emphasis on human rights with a rather cumbersome mechanism”accompanied by“a multiplicity of reports”. In recent months, NGOs have accused Malian forces and their Russian backers, including Wagner’s mercenaries, of atrocities.

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The Minusma, which has a duty to open investigations in the event of allegations, has seen its freedom of movement greatly reduced since the beginning of the year, according to diplomats. “The freedom of movement of the Minusma must be guaranteed”hammered after the vote the French ambassador to the UN, Nicolas de Rivière. “Violations of human rights and international humanitarian law must stop”he added.

A UN report on a massacre of several hundred civilians by Malian soldiers aided by foreign fighters, between March 27 and 31 in Moura (center) – where access to Minusma was prohibited – is expected soon. , according to a diplomat.

The World with AFP

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