On Monday, December 11, the United Nations marked the end of a significant chapter in Mali, concluding its decade-long peacekeeping mission known as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). This closure, initiated by Mali’s military government, which came to power in 2020, brings an end to one of the UN’s most challenging and deadliest missions.
MINUSMA, established in 2013, was deployed to stabilize Mali amidst an escalating conflict fueled by Islamic extremist insurgency. Over the years, the mission faced formidable challenges in a vast and difficult terrain, striving to maintain peace and support the Malian government. Despite the presence of about 15,000 soldiers and police, the mission witnessed the loss of over 300 personnel, making it the deadliest peacekeeping operation in UN history.
The mission’s termination follows the junta’s assertion that MINUSMA was inadequate in responding to the growing violent extremism in Mali. This decision has raised concerns about the potential escalation of conflict, especially in the northern regions where rebel groups have been active. The withdrawal of MINUSMA troops has sparked fears of a power vacuum, potentially leading to intensified fighting between Malian forces and armed groups vying for territorial control.
The mission’s end also reflects a broader shift in Mali’s international alliances. After seizing power, the Malian government distanced itself from former colonial power France and sought closer ties with Moscow and the Wagner Group, a private military company. This pivot has drawn strong condemnation from Western countries, who argue that the presence of Russian mercenaries threatens Mali’s stability.
The conclusion of MINUSMA highlights the complexities of UN peacekeeping efforts in conflict-ridden regions. The mission, while not successful in fully stabilizing Mali or recovering lost territories, played a crucial role in supporting the Malian security forces. It acted as a bridge between the national army and some rebel groups, facilitating peace efforts despite limited resources.
As Mali embarks on this new phase without the UN’s presence, the international community remains watchful. The situation in Mali is a stark reminder of the challenges faced by UN peacekeeping missions and raises questions about their future in Africa. The effectiveness of such missions in addressing deep-rooted conflicts and the role of international actors in regional stability are now under scrutiny.