UN soldiers have reportedly left a strategic camp in Mali’s volatile north, which has been wracked by escalating jihadist and separatist violence.
“We left Kidal this morning,” a source from the UN peacekeeping mission told the media, referring to a strategic town in northern Mali. Following a coup in 2020, Mali’s new military rulers in June ordered the UN mission out, proclaiming the “failure” of the mission and denouncing its alleged “instrumentalization” of the human rights issue. The UN peacekeepers have now been forced to hasten their departure by the actions of the ruling junta and destroy or decommission the equipment left behind, before risking their lives on the road for lack of flight permits. The MINUSMA mission, whose strength has hovered around 15,000 soldiers and police officers, has seen 180 of its members killed.
The original plan was for the peacekeeping force to have withdrawn from Mali by the end of the year, but the UN troops began withdrawing from their compounds as early as July. The MINUSMA withdrawal has exacerbated rivalries between armed groups present in the north of the West African country and the Malian central government.
The predominantly Tuareg separatist groups do not want the UN camps handed back to the Malian army, saying such a move would contravene ceasefire and peace deals struck with Bamako in 2014 and 2015. The various armed actors fighting for control of the territory in the north are seeking to take advantage of the evacuation of the camps, but the army is pushing to take back their control.