UN Peacekeepers Withdraw Amidst Heightened Security Risks
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) announced on Sunday that United Nations peacekeepers had begun an unexpected withdrawal from their Tessalit camp in northern Mali. The evacuation was carried out in response to a “highly tense and deteriorating security environment,” which posed a significant threat to the safety of UN personnel.
MINUSMA reported that they had “destroyed, deactivated, or rendered equipment, including vehicles, munitions, generators, and other items,” before vacating the base and relocating to Gao, the largest town in northern Mali. Some of this equipment couldn’t be repatriated to contributing countries or reassigned to other peacekeeping missions, thus necessitating compliance with United Nations protocols.
According to the statement, UN staff had to take refuge in bunkers on multiple occasions due to instances of gunfire in the past. An incident on October 19 involved a C130 transport plane, which came under fire during its landing at Tessalit. Fortunately, no significant injuries or property damage were reported.
Malian Army Assumes Control of Tessalit Camp
The Malian army declared that they successfully took control of the Tessalit camp on Saturday, marking the first handover in the volatile Kidal region, which has recently witnessed increased hostilities between armed factions.
Over recent months, the Alliance of Groups Seeking Autonomy or Independence (CMA) and the GSIM, an Al-Qaeda affiliate, have executed multiple attacks on army outposts.
Prior to the Tessalit transfer, MINUSMA had already handed over five other camps to Malian authorities since August. Nevertheless, evacuating the Kidal region’s camps, especially the city of Kidal, known as a separatist stronghold, remains a formidable challenge.
The separatist groups argue that returning the camps to the Malian army would violate ceasefire and peace accords negotiated with Bamako in 2014 and 2015. They vehemently oppose the camps’ handover.
Approximately 13,000 troops, consisting of 11,600 soldiers and 1,500 police officers from ten or more countries, are expected to continue their withdrawal until December 31.
The departure of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) after a 13-year presence has raised concerns that fighting between armed factions and government forces may intensify in their struggle for control of the country.
Despite grappling with jihadism and numerous challenges, the ruling junta of Mali, which seized power in 2020, formally requested the mission’s departure in June, further complicating the security landscape.