The 16th and latest addition to UN peacekeeping forces has been authorised “to use all necessary means” to stabilise strife-torn Mali.
MINUSMA, the UN multi-dimensional integrated stabilisation mission in Mali, officially became an entity of the world body yesterday in Bamako when members of the AU-led international support mission in Mali (AFISMA) exchanged their AU berets for blue UN peacekeeper headgear.
When fully deployed MINUSMA will have 12 600 military and police uniformed personnel and will be the third largest peacekeeping mission in Africa.
“The establishment of MINUSMA is the result of a unanimous decision of the UN Security Council and reaffirms the engagement of the international community to accompany the people of Mali in their quest for stability, peace and prosperity,” Bert Koenders, special representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and MINUSMA head, said.
AFISMA moved into Mali following fighting which started early in 2012 with a rebellion by ethnic Tuareg groups. This saw hundreds of thousands of Malians displaced and the government requested assistance from France to halt the southward march of extremists as AFISMA began to build up strength.
In April the Security Council approved the 12 600-strong MINUSMA force to take over from AFISMA. The latest addition to the international corps of blue helmets has been authorised to use all necessary means to carry out security related stabilisation tasks, protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artefacts as well as create conditions for the provision of humanitarian aid.
The new peacekeeping force’s core task is to support the political process in Mali, working in close co-ordination with the AU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
The new peacekeeping force will, according to Koenders, “gradually” build up to its authorised strength.
He also appealed to UN member states to provide adequate resources for it. This includes specialised units and force multipliers such as combat helicopters.
Koenders added MINUSMA faced “immense” security and logistics issues as well as others in the political and socio-economic spheres.
While the AU has withdrawn from policing and military matters in Mali, it will still remain active “infusing new impetus into the political process in a bid to efficiently respond to the multi-facetted threat facing the region and the Sahel,” ECOWAS president Pierre Buyoya said.
MINUSMA’s “all necessary means” mandate comes hard on the heels of a similar instruction given to the UN intervention brigade, currently setting up for operations in the DRC.
This 3 000 plus strong force will be under the command of Tanzanian Brigadier James Mwakibolwa and is the first in the UN’s 65 year history of peacekeeping to be given an offensive mandate. It has been tasked with offensive operations against armed groups threatening peace in particularly the eastern parts of the DRC. This is generally viewed as being the M23 group.