BY ALEX BALUKU
Baluku is a distinguished Fellow of the Dag Hammarskjöld Fund for Journalists, currently reporting from the United States of America on the 78th UN General Assembly. With a keen eye for global affairs and a commitment to delivering insightful coverage of UN activities, Baluku brings a unique perspective to the world of international journalism.
The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has successfully completed its accelerated withdrawal of all troops and civilian personnel from its base in Tessalit, marking a significant development amid a deteriorating security situation in northern Mali. The mission, however, faces concerns over the safety of a land convoy en route to Gao, a journey covering more than 550 kilometers, according to the UN.
The accelerated withdrawal from Tessalit signifies the first camp closure of MINUSMA in the Kidal region, a region facing increasing security risks that endanger the lives of hundreds of uniformed and civilian personnel. On 19 October, a MINUSMA aircraft was hit by small arms fire while landing at Tessalit, though fortunately, no injuries were reported among the crew, and the aircraft sustained no major damage.
MINUSMA is also in the process of withdrawing from Aguelhok in the coming days. In Kidal, the Mission is closely assessing the situation, with a view to adjusting the plan for withdrawing from its base. The Mission remains committed to transparency and impartiality, adhering to the principles of peacekeeping.
The accelerated withdrawal has raised concerns as it has resulted in the destruction of valuable equipment, including vehicles, ammunition, generators, and other assets that should have been returned to Troop-Contributing Countries or redeployed to other United Nations peacekeeping missions. These losses have incurred significant material and financial setbacks. The Secretariat has briefed the Security Council and troop-contributing countries on the situation, and the Government of Mali has been kept informed throughout the process.
This situation could have been mitigated if 200 trucks, held in Gao since 24 September 2023 due to movement restrictions, had been allowed to leave for the Kidal region to collect and transport equipment from the three MINUSMA bases, as part of the Mission’s overall withdrawal plan.
The United Nations underscores the responsibility of the Malian Transitional Government for the safety and security of peacekeepers and calls on it to extend all necessary cooperation to facilitate MINUSMA’s withdrawal. It calls on all parties to enable MINUSMA to carry out all phases of the withdrawal in a safe and orderly manner by 31 December, as per Security Council resolution 2690. MINUSMA is fully committed to respecting this timeframe.
As MINUSMA navigates these challenges, the international community remains watchful of the evolving situation in northern Mali and the implications of this withdrawal on peace and stability in the region.