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The UN Security Council decided to terminate the mission’s mandate on 30 June 2023 at the request of Mali’s transitional authorities. Personnel will be withdrawn by 31 December 2023.

This withdrawal was not expected. The Security Council had been anticipated to extend the mission’s mandate for a further year when it met on 16 June 2023.

However, the transitional authorities in Mali, which have run the country since taking power in a coup in May 2021, have requested the mission leave “without delay”.

The UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has been in Mali since 2013. While its mandate has changed over the years, its main priorities have been to support the political process and protect civilians. Its mandate has been renewed annually by the Security Council, most recently in June 2022.

Rising tensions between Mali and the UN

The call to leave follows rising tensions between the authorities and the UN mission, MINUSMA, in recent years. The UN says Mali has restricted the mission’s ability to operate, rejecting flight requests and limiting troop rotations.

The UK withdrew its 250-strong continent from the mission half-way through its planned deployment. France ended its separate decade-long counter-terrorism mission in 2022. Both countries cited Mali’s close relationship with the Russian Wagner Group and “obstructions” by the Malian authorities

The Mali transitional authorities have questioned the effectiveness of MINUSMA, arguing that ten years after its deployment “the fact remains that the security situation has deteriorated.” They have requested MINUSMA engage in counter-terrorism operations and provide more support to the Malian armed forces.

António Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, has described MINUSMA as a “peacekeeping operation where there is no peace to keep.” Having reviewed the mission, he said maintaining the status quo is not an option. In June 2023, he presented the Security Council with three options

increasing the number of uniformed personnel (currently 15,000, including 13,000 military personnel), retaining the current number of personnel but with a reduced footprint, and withdrawing the military elements and focusing wholly on the political mission.

However, the Security Council agreed to end the mission on 30 June 2023, allowing for a six-month drawdown by the end of 2023. MINUSMA is authorised to respond to imminent threats of violence to civilians and contribute to the safe civilian-led delivery of humanitarian assistance until 30 September 2023.

Referendum favours new constitution

In June Malians voted in favour of a new constitution. This is a key stage in the planned transition to a democratically elected government. Legislative elections are expected later in 2023 and a presidential election in February 2024, with the transitional authorities handing over power by March 2024.

The new constitution will expand the powers of the president, allowing them to determine policy and appoint remove the Prime Minister and cabinet. It also allows the president in “exceptional measures” in the event of a “serious and immediate” threat to the country.

A decade-long crisis

The current crisis in Mali has its roots in the events of 2012, when northern separatists and Islamist armed groups forced government forces out of northern Mali, and the military overthrew the Government. Fresh elections in 2013 and 2018, and a peace accord in 2015 between the Government and two northern separatist movements, brought hope of stability.

However, a continued Jihadist insurgency and attacks by a myriad of armed groups, means little progress was made in implementing the 2015 accords. Anti-government demonstrations by a coalition of opposition forces led to the removal of President Kéïta in summer 2020.

A second coup in May 2021 saw the removal of interim president Bah N’Daw and his prime minister. Colonel Assima Goïta, N’daw’s former deputy, and one of the people behind the 2020 coup, took over and was sworn in as interim president in June 2021.

Mali faces significant governance challenges: the state has limited control of the territory, with a presence in only 22% of central and northern regions. 

There is also little security: civilians face threats from Islamist groups, organised criminal networks, competition between pastoralists and farmers over limited resources, and long-standing intracommunity conflicts. Over 375,000 people are believed to be internally displaced and 8.8 million people are estimated to need humanitarian assistance and protection.

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