‘Fatal blow’: Mali rebels warn against UN peacekeepers departure

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Al Jazeera

A coalition of Malian rebels has warned that the departure of MINUSMA, the peacekeeping force, could hurt a peace deal.

The departure of a United Nations peacekeeping mission from Mali will strike a “fatal blow” to a peace accord and threaten stability across the region, a coalition of armed groups in the country’s north warned on Wednesday.

Mali’s military government on Friday asked the peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA, to leave “without delay”, a demand that followed years of fraying relations between the UN and Bamako’s military leadership.

In May, several thousand demonstrators gathered in the country’s capital of Bamako, calling for the UN mission known as MUNISMA (United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali) to leave the country, saying it had failed to bring peace.

But the coalition, the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), said in a statement on Wednesday that MINUSMA’s exit “without a credible alternative would constitute a threat to security in Mali and the whole region”.

A spokesman for the government did not respond to a request from the Reuters news agency for comment.

It is not clear if or when MINUSMA will leave. The force has been in the West African country since 2013 after a Tuareg-led separatist rebellion was hijacked by armed groups that have gone on to kill thousands of people and control large parts of the north and centre.

MINUSMA has struggled to contain the violence, but it has played a role in placating the separatists, who halted their offensive in 2015 with the Algiers Accord.

Still, the signatories have been at odds with the military government that consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021. In December, CSP-PSD pulled out of talks, saying it would only come back to the table in a neutral country under international mediation.

MINUSMA’s mandate runs out on June 30 and it was in talks to extend it before Mali’s announcement. Security experts have said that an orderly departure of 13,000 troops and equipment could take a year at least.

There were fears that the country – which has burned bridges with Western allies since the coups and turned to Russian private military contractor Wagner Group for help – could slide deeper into chaos if separatist sentiments resurge.