UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres reaffirmed that the withdrawal of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was taking place as planned and was not “chaotic”.
MINUSMA was deployed in 2013 to support local and foreign efforts to restore stability in Mali after the West African nation was plunged into insecurity following an Islamist insurgency in 2012.
Guterres, who spoke during a joint press briefing with African Union Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat, said the withdrawal of the peacekeepers from the towns of Kidal, Tessalit and Aguelhok was an extraordinary achievement given the numerous challenges faced by the troops.
“And I must say that the operation of withdrawal from Kidal, Tessalit and Aguelhok of a convoy with 14 kilometres, being able to do so with lots of IED on the way, without the possibility of having air surveillance because it was denied by the Malian authorities and to be able to come to Gao without one single casualty, one single peacekeeper dying, is a remarkable operation, and I want to pay tribute to the courage of the peacekeepers that they’ve done it,” Guterres said.
In June, the UN Security Council voted to end the peacekeeping mission in Mali after the West African nation’s military government requested the mission to leave. MINUSMA’s operations were plagued by tensions and government restrictions which hampered its aerial and ground operations, particularly since Mali joined forces with Wagner group, a Russian private military organization.
The mission is expected to complete the withdrawal of its personnel by December 31.
Guterres also pointed out that it was important in future to justify having peacekeeping missions in areas where there is no peace to keep or areas where the security issues were of a different nature.
“Peacekeeping missions make sense in order to stabilize situations after a peace process taking place. When we have situations like the one we have in Mali or the one we have in other areas affected by terrorism, what we need is peace enforcing and counterterrorism operations. The UN has not the vocation to do so,” Guterres said.
Guterres also backed the African Union in its ability to lead such peace enforcing and counterterrorism operations within the continent with a full mandate of the Security Council.
“And to those that have sometimes doubts about the African Union in this regard, I have to say that the rules of compliance that the African Union has established are perfectly compatible with ours.”
“And the agreement that we established today on human rights is a further guarantee that we can trust the African Union to organize effective peace enforcing operations in Africa.”