US “deeply concerned” with worsening violence in Mali after early UN mission exit

Friday August 18 2023

UN peacekeeping mission soldiers patrol on foot in the streets of Gao, Mali on July 24, 2019. PHOTO | AFP


The United States has lamented worsening violence in Mali as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (Minusma) begins its withdrawal earlier than scheduled.

The UN Mission is withdrawing from the restive West African nation on the request of the military-led transition government which accused it of being part of the over a decade long conflict that has created one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world.

The Minusma says its forces have become target by Mali’s security forces, compelling it to bring forward the planned withdrawal of its Blue Helmets.

In a statement on August 13, Minusma announced that three of its soldiers were wounded when they came under fire twice as they departed a major base in the town of Ber in the north of the country.

Read: UN peacekeepers killed in Mali blast

At the same time, the Malian army said six of its soldiers died and 24 alleged terrorist fighters killed in a skirmish in the area.


The US State Department said that incident highlighted the threat of violence in the country and the importance of all parties in the conflict to settle their differences peacefully and in accordance with the 2015 Algiers Peace Accord.

“It is critical that Minusma be permitted to conduct its withdrawal in a safe and orderly manner, and we call on the transition government to cooperate fully until the final Minusma element departs,” US State Department spokesman Mathew Miller said in a statement, adding: “Attacks on UN peacekeepers are unacceptable, and we condemn such violence and the larger threat posed by armed actors operating throughout Mali. We stand with the people of Mali in support of a future defined by peace, security, and prosperity.”

The United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on June 30, 2023 to pull out the over 11, 000 strong hybrid forces in the country after Mali’s government accused them of fuelling tensions in the conflict and ordering their removal from the country.

That marked the climax of the fallout between the junta and Western countries over the prosecution of the war against Islamist insurgents, which has long spilled over to the wider Sahel region.

Read: Macron expected to announce Mali withdrawal

According to the UN, the conflicts has created over 4 million displaced people in the region, as at the end of 2022.

The involvement of the Russia-backed Wagner group in the conflict further complicated relations between Mali and Western nations, especially France which had the largest number of troops in the country.

Mali experienced two coups in the last three years in relation to the crisis. The last coup worsened relations to a point of causing the breakup of ties with former colonial master, leading to the expulsion of French troops.

Mali has been under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to transfer the country back to democratic rule. The West African bloc lifted sanctions on the landlocked country in July 2022, after reaching an agreement on a transition plan that will see elections conducted on February 4, 2024.

Mali has since conducted a referendum, the results of which saw the approval of a new constitution which opponents say will give excessive powers to the president.

Read: Tension in Mali as army detains president, PM

The UN troops withdrawal was supposed to be fully completed by December 31.

The issue was discussed by Ecowas leaders at the 63rd Ordinary Session of the Heads of State summit on 9th July in Bissau, Guinea Bissau, where a Presidential Task Force, comprising Benin, Guinea-Bissau and Nigeria, with the support of Niger, was constituted to “deepen regional reflections” the situation and all its related security matters.

The Task Force, known as The Troika+1, was specifically tasked with accompanying the Ecowas mediators to sustain dialogue with the transition authorities in Mali and neighbours Burkina Faso and Guinea, which are also under military rule and are being pressured to return to democracy.

A summit of the Task Force chaired by Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu on July 18 resolved to continue with the negotiations under the leadership of Benin’s President, Patrice Talon.

Mr Talon was tasked to undertake consultative visits to the three countries as part of efforts to ensure the conduct of “credible and inclusive” democratic elections.