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UN ends Peacekeeping mission in Mali as US asccuses Russia’s Wagner Group

The force in Action: Burkinabé contingent of MINUSMA

The United Nations Security Council has unanimously voted to conclude the decade-long peacekeeping mission in Mali following a request from the country’s military junta. However, the United States has accused Russia’s Wagner mercenary group of engineering the departure of the UN peacekeepers. The mission, known as MINUSMA, has been instrumental in protecting civilians against the ongoing Islamist insurgency in Mali. Concerns have been raised about the security situation worsening once the mission withdraws, leaving Mali’s under-equipped army to confront militants controlling significant territories in the desert north and center.

Over the years, tensions and government restrictions have hindered peacekeeping operations in Mali since the country formed a partnership with Russia’s Wagner group in 2021. The Wagner group, which recently experienced an unsuccessful armed mutiny in Russia, has faced criticism for its alleged involvement in orchestrating the departure of UN peacekeepers from Mali. UN peacekeepers are credited with playing a vital role in safeguarding civilian lives in the region, and experts fear that their absence could lead to an escalation in violence.

The Security Council, composed of 15 member states, has adopted a French-drafted resolution that calls for the cessation of operations, transfer of tasks, and the orderly and safe withdrawal of personnel by December 31, 2023.

As the Security Council voted, the White House accused Wagner leader Yevgeny Prigozhin of being involved in orchestrating the departure of UN peacekeepers from Mali. The US also claimed to have information suggesting that Mali’s authorities have paid over $200 million to the Wagner group since late 2021. The extent of Russia’s influence and involvement in the decision-making process is being closely scrutinized.

Russia’s Deputy UN Ambassador, Anna Evstigneeva, defended Mali’s decision, emphasizing its sovereignty and commitment to stabilizing the country. She reiterated Russia’s commitment to providing bilateral support to Mali in normalizing the situation.

Mali’s government has taken note of the Security Council resolution and expressed its intention to ensure compliance with the withdrawal timeline. The government also expressed its willingness to cooperate with partners who respect Mali’s state policies.

The Security Council resolution grants MINUSMA the authority to respond to imminent threats of violence against civilians within its immediate vicinity until September 30. The resolution also calls on UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to collaborate with the Malian authorities on a plan to transfer MINUSMA’s tasks, with a presentation due by August 15. Mali is urged to fully cooperate with the UN during the mission’s withdrawal.

Mali has been grappling with an Islamist insurgency since 2012, and MINUSMA was deployed in 2013 to support efforts to restore stability. However, growing insecurity led to two coups in Mali in 2020 and 2021, reflecting the challenges faced in combating the insurgency.

The conclusion of the MINUSMA mission marks a significant transition for Mali, and the international community will closely monitor the country’s ability to address the ongoing security concerns independently.

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