MINUSMA camp closures

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An integral component of the exit of a United Nations (UN) peacekeeping mission from any country, in this instance MINUSMA and Mali, is camp closure and restitution.

A MINUSMA statement has it three camp closures at Ogossagou, Ber and Goundam done, formal restitution of these sites in accordance with UN rules and regulations is a key element of the mission withdrawal plan in co-ordination with Malian authorities.

The withdrawal follows a request by Malian authorities by 31 December this year in a safe, orderly and co-ordinated manner. This will immediately be followed by a liquidation phase in the wake of a 10-year stay in the landlocked West African country.

MINUSMA established 12 camps in central and north Mali, along with a headquarters in Bamako. In line with the MINUSMA Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) the sites were provided by Malian authorities and will now go back to them.

As per UN guidelines MINUSMA is formally transferring camps only to State civilian authorities with the Mission in continuous contact with Malian authorities at national and regional levels. The Mission is negotiating a framework agreement with Malian authorities setting out joint approaches to this process.

At the same time MINUSMA personnel and equipment, including from troop- and police-contributing countries, are withdrawn from camps in a manner that minimizes risks, in co-ordination with the Mali government. Contingent-owned equipment, such as armoured vehicles, weapons and ammunition, belonging to troop- and police-contributing countries, are systematically withdrawn as a matter of priority. What the mission leaves behind is infrastructure and equipment, including water treatment and wastewater management installations, power generation and distribution networks, as well as furnished offices.

Once personnel and equipment have left, MINUSMA aims to ensure camps are left in safe and functioning condition. This involves removing any hazardous chemicals or waste. Every effort is made to complete the environmental clean-up within available time and capacity. Prior to the sign-off, a final joint environmental site inspection is conducted with government representatives co-ordinated by the Ministry of Environment.

Additionally a battle area survey is conducted by the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS) to ensure no explosives are left and this report is included in documents to be signed by the authorities.

When ready to vacate a camp MINUSMA and the designated Malian authorities’ civilian representative – Governor of region or a Prefect or sub-Prefect – sign an individualised certificate containing, inter alia, a site inspection report, a list of structures remaining and an environmental report.

“The formal return of camps to the Malian State is an important step in the process of MINUSMA’s withdrawal from Mali. It symbolises the end of MINUSMA’s presence and responsibility in the camp and the area it covered, as the mission seeks to hand over previously mandated responsibilities to the Malian authorities, with the possible contribution of the UN Country Team, the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and other stakeholders,” a statement reads.

It continues: “Peacekeepers are withdrawing from Mali, but the UN commitment to the country remains strong. The UN will continue to provide multi-faceted support to the Malian government and people in their efforts to achieve sustainable peace and development”.