Ivory Coast will more than quadruple its troop presence in the United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in neighbouring Mali to 800, President Alassane Ouattara said, making it one of the mission’s leading contributors.
The battalion of 650 troops will join 150 Ivorian soldiers already deployed in Mali, where security deteriorated sharply due to attacks by jihadist groups with links to al Qaeda and Islamic State as well as ethnic clashes.
The unrest destabilised West Africa’s entire Sahel region as national armies, Western commandos and the 15,000-strong UN mission in Mali (MINUSMA) fail to maintain control.
MINUSMA was set up in 2013 after an Islamist uprising in the north the year before. Amid continuing violence, it is the UN’s deadliest mission, with nearly 200 killed, mostly in combat.
Led by France, Western powers provided funding for regional force called the G5 Sahel made up of soldiers from Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mauritania to combat jihadists.
“We must strengthen our security co-operation and continue advocacy for the G5 Sahel and resolution of the crisis in Libya which contributes to instability in our sister countries Niger, Mali, Burkina Faso and beyond,” Ouattara told reporters.
He said the additional troops would be deployed “soon” without providing details.
Ivory Coast has been largely spared the violence affecting its neighbours, an attack in 2016 by al Qaeda gunmen on a beach resort along its southern coast killed 16 people.