Instability Remains as UN Mission Withdraws from Mali

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) is being withdrawn from Mali after a decade of peacekeeping. The UN mission in Mali officially handed over Timbuktu, one of its last camps in a large city in the north of the country, before the end of its final withdrawal. Whether or not this will be beneficial to the citizens of Mali has yet to be determined since instability still reigns.

On June 30, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2690 effectively terminating MINUSMA’s previous mandate and requesting the transfer of its tasks as well as the safe and orderly reduction and withdrawal of the mission by Dec. 31, 2023, to be followed by a transitional liquidation period.

The UN force was deployed to Mali in 2013 following a violent insurrection by separatist rebels attempting to take control of the north of the country and a subsequent military-led coup. The mission included more than 15,000 troops and personnel who served in cities and towns around the country.

“I think our work impacted the lives of many civilians in Mali,” said El-Ghassum Wane, outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSMA.

The MINUSMA sites of Gao and Timbuktu were the last camps not to have been handed over because it was planned there, after January 1, for what the UN calls the “liquidation” or winding down of the mission, which includes handing over equipment to the authorities or terminating existing contracts.

According to the UN, MINUSMA “was established by Security Council resolution 2100 of April 25, 2013 to support the shaky political processes in Mali and carry out a number of security-related tasks. At the time, the Mission was asked to support the transitional authorities of Mali in the stabilization of the country and implementation of the transitional roadmap.

UN resolution 2164 of June 25, 2014, called for the mission to focus on additional responsibilities, such as ensuring security, stabilization and protection of civilians; supporting national political dialogue and reconciliation; and assisting the reestablishment of State authority, the rebuilding of the security sector, and the promotion and protection of human rights in that country.

But the security situation in the country deteriorated amid jihadist attacks and precipitated the definitive departure of MINUSMA to Timbuktu.

During the official handover ceremony, the governor of the region, Bakoun Kanté, declared, “In the name of the highest authorities of the transition, in the name of the population of the Timbuktu region and my name, I would like to say thank you to MINUSMA for the efforts made within the framework of the return of peace, of living together and social cohesion.”

In its decade of operations, MINUSMA aided Mali in tackling multiple challenges. Among the UN’s most challenging peacekeeping missions, it has suffered more than 300 fatalities of its troops and personnel amid continuing extremist violence and rampant insecurity across much of the country’s north and center.

As UN Res. 2164 called for, MINUSMA indeed supported the political process and carried out a number of security-related stabilization tasks, with a focus on major population centres, protecting civilians, human rights monitoring, creating conditions for providing humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons as well as preparing free, inclusive and peaceful elections.

Although MINUSMA itself is withdrawing, the larger UN system in Mali, including the 21 agencies, funds and programs in collaboration with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, will continue its support in pursuit of the UN’s Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development in the country.

“UN funds, agencies and programmes were in Mali well before the deployment of MINUSMA and will stay in Mali well after the withdrawal,” he said.

Echoing that statement, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to work with the Malian people and transitional government towards the restoration of constitutional order, as well as the promotion of peace and security and sustainable development.

Although MINUSMA’s withdrawal will likely have a profound impact on the stability of the region, it is hoped that Agenda 2030 will end poverty and hunger, ensure healthy lives, and promote well-being for Malian citizens.

Chloe Atkinson is a climate change activist and consultant on global climate affairs.