Security issues troubling MINUSMA withdrawal

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United Nations (UN) peacekeeping personnel in Mali are, security issues notwithstanding, proceeding with drawdown of the MINUSMA mission in the landlocked West African country.

The potentially life threatening insecurity saw the world body issue a note to correspondents at the weekend. It stressed the responsibility of the Malian transitional government for “the safety and security of peacekeepers and calls on it to extend all necessary co-operation to facilitate MINUSMA’s withdrawal”.

The mission is, the note reads further, on track to exit Mali by 31 December and “is fully committed to this timeframe”.

This commitment saw completion of accelerated withdrawal of troops and civilian personnel from the MINUSMA base in Tessalit in Mali’s “restive north” on Saturday (21 October). There are concerns about the safety of a land convoy, en route to Gao 550 km away, the note read.

The departure from Tessalit marks the first camp closure of MINUSMA in the Kidal region of northern Mali, amid a deteriorating security situation endangering the lives of hundreds of uniformed and civilian personnel, the note said.

As an example, a MINUSMA aircraft was hit by small arms fire while landing at Tessalit on Thursday (19 October), but there were no injuries to crew or major damage to the aircraft.

MINUSMA intends to start withdrawing from its Aguelhok base, also in the Kidal region, soon with ongoing assessments if adjustments have to be made to the exit plan.

“The Mission is continuously adapting to evolving developments on the ground and a host of logistical constraints beyond its control, driven by the imperative of the safety and security of its peacekeepers. It is doing so in full transparency and impartiality, in line with the principles of peacekeeping,” the note said.

The accelerated withdrawal “is resulting in the destruction of equipment, such as vehicles, equipment, ammunition, generators and other assets, that should have been returned to troop contributing countries (TCCs) or redeployed to other UN peacekeeping missions, causing significant material and financial losses”.

The note goes on to say “losses could have been avoided if 200 trucks, held in Gao since 24 September 2023 due to movement restrictions, had been allowed to leave for the Kidal region to collect and transport equipment from three MINUSMA bases as part of the Mission’s overall withdrawal plan”.