But Secretary-General António Guterres this week released an internal review of the 17,500-strong UN mission known as MINUSMA, noting that Mali’s longstanding security partnership with France and other countries has been overwhelmed by concerns over Wagner’s support for Malian’s armed forces. group members, which he said Russian officials had publicly acknowledged.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills said the United States would welcome the U.N.’s acknowledgment during an internal review of the Wagner Group’s presence in Mali.
He called Wagner “a criminal organization that has committed widespread atrocities and human rights abuses in Mali and elsewhere.” The U.S. has imposed several waves of sanctions on Wagner and his owner, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a rogue millionaire with Russian President Vladimir Putin. long term connection.
Last year, France withdrew its troops from Mali, where they had helped drive Islamic extremists out of the country for nine years, following tensions with the ruling junta and the arrival of Wagnerian mercenaries.
“Their presence is tantamount to the regular abuse of civilians in Mali and the growing obstruction of MINUSMA,” Nathalie Broadhurst, France’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council on Friday. “This is unacceptable.”
Since 2012, Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency. Extremist rebels were forced out of northern Mali cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regrouped in the desert and began launching attacks against the Malian army and its allies. Civilians and U.N. peacekeepers in central Mali also Assaults have exacerbated insecurity.
In August 2020, the President of Mali was overthrown in a coup involving then Army Colonel Assimi Goita. In June 2021, Goita was sworn in as president of the transitional government after launching his second coup in nine months.
Foreign Minister Diop told the committee that Goita was “firmly committed” to holding a referendum on a draft constitution in March, electing national assembly representatives in October and November and holding a presidential election in February 2024.
He said the government remained committed to defending the territory, protecting people and implementing the 2015 peace agreement.
The peace agreement was signed by three parties – the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordination of Movements in Azawad, which includes Arabs and Tuaregs seeking autonomy in northern Mali, and a group known as the “Platform”. pro-government militias — but those movements suspended participation in December.
Diop called their decision “regrettable” but said “we hope to reach a consensus with the brothers who signed the movement as soon as possible.”
In an internal review of MINUSMA, Secretary-General Guterres called Mali “one of the most difficult operating environments for peacekeeping operations”, citing significant air and ground restrictions imposed by Malian security authorities. The restrictions put peacekeepers “in an already dangerous environment where 165 peacekeepers have been killed and 687 injured in hostilities since July 2013,” he said.
The Secretary-General said the mission’s operations would come under additional pressure as four troop-contributing countries were withdrawing, which would mean the loss of more than 2,250 troops.
Guterres said MINUSMA’s ability to fulfill its mandate – to protect civilians, support improvements in the security and political situation and monitor human rights – would depend on the progress of the political transition, progress in the implementation of the peace agreement and peacekeepers and their intelligence personnel freedom of movement, surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
The Secretary-General said that in 2019, MINUSMA expanded its mandate without additional manpower, making it over-tasked and that “the current situation is not sustainable.”
He laid out three options: add 3,680 or 2,000 uniformed personnel; restructure the force to support its existing priorities or focus primarily on supporting peace deals; or end peacekeeping missions and turn them into political ones.
Mali’s Diop said the UN secretary-general’s proposal was inconsistent with Mali’s desire to step up security operations, which would include participation in offensive operations and patrols, especially as part of its mandate to protect civilians.
On human rights, he said the government “will firmly oppose the instrumentalization and politicization of this issue” but will work to protect human rights.
Diop said the government’s involvement in the internal review was to “respond to the deep aspirations of the Malian people”.
“That hasn’t happened yet,” the foreign minister said. “However, the Mali government remains open to dialogue with the United Nations in the coming months to finalize the way forward.”
Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, said security was an “overriding priority” during the transition in Mali “due to the security vacuum created by the hasty withdrawal of French and European troops”.
Nonetheless, the Malian army “has demonstrated over the past few months that they can indeed deliver results in the fight against terrorism,” he said, adding that Russian training “is bearing fruit.”
Nebenzia said Mali’s needs and views were “the overriding priority” when it came to options for reconfiguring MINUSMA.
In contrast, U.S. envoy Mills expressed serious concern about the transitional government’s restrictions on MINUSMA, which have made MINUSMA’s extremely unstable operating environment even more dangerous for peacekeepers and civilians.
He demanded that the Government lift all restrictions, reiterating the conclusion of the internal review that the success of MINUSMA would depend on the support it received from the Transitional Authority.
Mills said the continued obstruction “should force the committee to seriously reconsider its support for MINUSMA in its current form.”