End of an Era: UN Peacekeeping Mission in Mali Concludes Amidst Challenges


After a decade of service, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (Minusma) is set to conclude its withdrawal on Sunday. Initiated in 2013 to address the aftermath of an armed rebellion, Minusma faced challenges and complexities that ultimately led to its departure. The mission, while undertaking substantial efforts, fell short of expectations, highlighting the complex dynamics in Mali.

The Genesis of Minusma: A Decade of Peacekeeping in Mali

Background and Armed Rebellion

Minusma emerged in 2013 in response to an armed rebellion in Mali, with separatist rebels and Islamist fighters occupying northern regions in their quest for a separate state. France intervened with troops, followed by the deployment of UN peacekeepers, aiming to quell the uprising and stabilize the region.

Increasing Threat from Islamist Militants

Over the years, the threat from Islamist militants persisted, resulting in numerous casualties and displacements. Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and French troops leading counter-terrorism operations, Mali witnessed a steady rise in terror attacks. France’s decision to withdraw troops in the preceding year further underscored the evolving security landscape.

Challenges Faced by Minusma: Critical Assessment

High Casualties and Expectations

Minusma, with 310 peacekeepers killed, became the UN’s second deadliest mission globally, following Lebanon. The mission faced challenges beyond its mandate, leading to a critical assessment by El-Ghassim Wane, the head of the UN mission. He acknowledged that while Minusma accomplished much, it fell below expectations and the pressing needs of the region.

Fragile Security Situation and Rising Insurgency

Mali’s security remains fragile, marked by active armed Islamist and independence movements. The country experienced political instability with military coups in 2020 and 2021, leading to governance challenges. The jihadist insurgency has spread across the north and east, making large territories ungovernable.

Mali’s Changing Alliances: Shift Towards Russia and Regional Dynamics

Regional Bloc Suspensions and Defence Pact

Mali, along with Guinea, Niger, and Burkina Faso, faces suspension from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) due to military coups. In response, the Alliance of Sahel States was formed in September, comprising Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso. These countries are pivoting away from longstanding ties with France and growing closer to Russia.

Withdrawal of French Forces and Diplomats

As French forces and diplomats exit Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso, the void left by traditional allies is being filled by increasing ties with Russia. The geopolitical realignment is reshaping the strategic dynamics of the region, with the three countries distancing themselves from historical links with France.

Current Scenario and Future Challenges: Security Concerns Persist

Jihadist Insurgency and Renewed Violence

Mali faces ongoing challenges from jihadist insurgencies, notably the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, which has made significant territorial gains. Central regions are witnessing a surge in violence linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State groups, further complicating efforts to restore stability.

Post-UN Peacekeeper Withdrawal

Following the UN peacekeeper withdrawal, fighting erupted again in August between separatists and government troops. The power vacuum left by Minusma’s departure intensified existing tensions, requiring a comprehensive strategy to address the complex web of challenges facing Mali.

Conclusion: Reflecting on a Decade of Peacekeeping in Mali

As Minusma concludes its mission in Mali, reflections on the past decade reveal both accomplishments and the enduring complexities of the region. The evolving security landscape, changing alliances, and persistent insurgencies necessitate ongoing international attention and collaborative efforts to pave the way for a more stable and secure Mali.

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