BAMAKO (Mali), June 16 (AP) — Mali’s top diplomat on Friday demanded the immediate departure of United Nations peacekeepers who have been battling an Islamist insurgency in the West African country for more than a decade, saying their mission had failed.
Foreign Minister Abdullaye Diop made the request in an address to the UN Security Council. He said the UN mission had failed to achieve its goals and was sowing distrust among the people.
Since 2012, Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency. The following year, extremist rebels were forced from power in northern Mali cities with the help of a French-led military campaign, but they regrouped in the desert and began attacks against the Mali army and its allies.
A few months later, a UN peacekeeping force of more than 15,000 arrived in what has become one of the most dangerous UN missions in the world. At least 170 peacekeepers have been killed in the country since 2013, according to the United Nations.
In his speech to the Security Council, Diop said the “government of Mali demands the immediate withdrawal” of the peacekeepers. ’ appeared to respond to the “security needs” of the Malians.
Mali, which began 2020 with two coups, is now ruled by a military junta led by current national leader Assimi Goita.
Relations with the international community have become strained since Goita came to power — in part because the junta brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group, which took part in Moscow’s war against Ukraine.
In recent months, the Mali government has restricted the ability of peacekeeping troops to move, and countries such as Benin, Germany, Sweden, Ivory Coast and the United Kingdom have announced the withdrawal of troops.
Diop’s request comes as the council begins discussions on the mandate, which expires on June 30.
US Ambassador Jeffrey De Laurentiis told Friday’s meeting that Washington was “particularly frustrated” by Mali’s ongoing restrictions on freedom of movement and access to peacekeeping operations known as MINUSMA.
Conflict analysts see Mali’s needs as worrisome.
“This is a grim development,” said Laith Alkhouri, chief executive of Intelonyx Intelligence Advisory, which provides intelligence analysis. Public pressure is building after multiple protests.
But many Malians say the peacekeepers have not brought stability.
“What I can see is that despite the (UN) presence, we don’t have peace,” Mohamed Sissoko, a resident of the capital Bamako, told The Associated Press.
Fatou Matakaba, spokesman for the U.N. mission in Mali, said the U.N. would respond to the request but could not immediately comment.
On Sunday, the African country will hold a long-awaited referendum on a new constitution, on the way to elections scheduled for next February. (Associated Press)
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