The U.N. Security Council is set to vote on Friday to conclude the decade-long peacekeeping mission in Mali following a request from the country's military junta for the force to leave “without delay.”
Here's a breakdown of MINUSMA's operations in Mali and the reasons behind its anticipated departure:
The mission, comprising 13,000 peacekeepers, was deployed in 2013 to restore stability after al Qaeda-linked insurgents and separatists seized control of parts of the desert north in 2012.
Thousands have lost their lives, resulting in one of the world's fastest-growing humanitarian crises.
With approximately 170 peacekeepers losing their lives in the line of duty, MINUSMA has experienced the highest casualties among ongoing U.N. missions.
MINUSMA has played a crucial role in safeguarding major cities, mediating conflicts between ethnic groups in rural areas, and facilitating medical evacuations for Mali's under-equipped army.
Additionally, the mission has coordinated peace talks among rival armed groups in the north, following the 2015 Algiers Accords, and has been instrumental in preparing for next year's scheduled elections.
However, its operations have been hindered by restrictions imposed by Mali's junta since its collaboration with the Russian private military contractor, Wagner Group, in 2021.
The U.N. has repeatedly faced delays or denials of access to conflict zones and investigation sites of alleged human rights abuses.
Tensions between MINUSMA and Mali's leadership, which consolidated power through two coups in 2020 and 2021, have escalated. While Bamako desired a more active combat role for MINUSMA, the U.N. sought greater freedom of movement.
The Malian government was further angered by a U.N. report in May, accusing the army and “armed white men” of killing 500 civilians in the town of Moura last year. On June 16, Mali's Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop ordered MINUSMA's immediate departure.
Previously, the mission was expected to extend its mandate for another year. A draft Security Council resolution now calls for MINUSMA to initiate a handover on Saturday, with a complete withdrawal of personnel by December 31.
The abrupt withdrawal of MINUSMA raises concerns among security experts regarding increased chaos in Mali. With only about 1,000 Wagner fighters remaining to combat militants, major towns will be vulnerable to attacks.
The signatories of the Algiers Accord fear its potential collapse without U.N. mediation, leaving the north susceptible to another uprising. Furthermore, international oversight of the conflict, including investigations into alleged abuses by all parties involved, is likely to cease.