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The backstory: The West African country of Mali has been dealing with a violent Islamist insurgency for over a decade that’s been able to gain control over territory in the desert north and center. It’s also been responsible for thousands of deaths and mass displacement. In 2013, the UN launched a peacekeeping mission there called MINUSMA after rebels and al Qaeda-linked insurgents occupied the northern part of the country. This mission has been credited with protecting Mali’s residents from a lot of the fighting.
More recently: In 2020, a military junta staged a coup, taking over Mali’s government. This has led to a breakdown of Mali’s foreign ties and its UN relations. In 2021, the junta brought in mercenaries from the Wagner group, which has also been fighting on the Russian side in the Ukraine War, to help its attempts at curbing the insurgency there. There are about 1,000 Wagner troops there at the moment.
Last year, France pulled its support from Mali because of a breakdown in trust between the two countries. Since then, Mali has been depending on Wagner, and the country has seen the insurgency intensify its activities and extend its reach. Mali’s junta government has been pushing UN forces to take on an anti-terrorism role, but it was committed to peacekeeping instead. Earlier in June, Mali’s Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, requested that the UN end its mission and remove those troops.
The development: On Friday, the UN Security Council voted unanimously to end the peacekeeping mission in Mali. France drafted the resolution, which ordered the mission to start wrapping things up on Saturday, beginning to withdraw about 15,000 personnel. By the end of the year, the mission should be fully done. While the MINUSMA mission is still there, though, it can respond to threats of violence and contribute to humanitarian aid efforts. Some experts are afraid that without the UN’s peacekeeping forces, Mali won’t have the resources to contain the violence, and civilians will end up getting hurt. Some countries, like the US, are saying that Wagner pushed for the peacekeeping mission to end to further its own interests.
"We know that senior Malian officials worked directly with Prighozin employees to inform the UN secretary-general that Mali had revoked consent for the MINUSMA mission," said US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby.
“Although we regret the decision of the transitional Government to abandon MINUSMA and the fact that this will harm the Malian population, we voted in favor of the resolution since we are satisfied with the withdrawal plan adopted,” said the ambassador for the US, Jeffrey DeLaurentis.
“Care must be taken to ensure that MINUSMA’s departure does not create gaps in terms of civilian protection and human rights monitoring and reporting,” said Alioune Tine, the UN independent expert on Mali.