The UN peacekeeping operation in Mali is set to complete its withdrawal on Sunday

Last UN peacekeepers set to withdraw completely from Mali

Una miembro del personal de paz de la ONU de Benín formaba parte de un contingente de personal femenino desplegado en 2021 - ARCHIVO: MINUSMA
A UN peacekeeper from Benin was part of a contingent of female peacekeepers deployed in 2021 - FILE: MINUSMA

The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was deployed in 2013 following a violent insurgency by separatist rebels attempting to seize control of the north of the country and a subsequent military-led coup.  

  1. Facing a range of challenges  
  2. Supporting the political process    
  3. End of the mission  
  4. Integrated drawdown plan  
  5. The liquidation period begins  
  6. MINUSMA goes, but UN stays  

Established by UN Security Council Resolution 2100, the mission had more than 15,000 troops and personnel serving in towns and villages across the country.

"I believe our work had an impact on the lives of many civilians in Mali," said El-Ghassum Wane, outgoing Special Representative of the Secretary-General and head of MINUSMA.  

Facing a range of challenges  

In its decade of operations, MINUSMA has helped Mali meet multiple challenges. It is one of the UN's toughest peacekeeping missions, having suffered more than 300 casualties among its troops and personnel amid continuing extremist violence and rampant insecurity in much of the north and centre of the country.

On Saturday evening, the UN Secretary-General expressed his deepest gratitude to MINUSMA personnel, including Wane, who "have provided exceptional leadership in a difficult context," said Stéphane Dujarric, UN spokesman.

Paying tribute to the 311 MINUSMA personnel who lost their lives and the more than 700 who were wounded in the cause of peace during the 10 years the Mission was deployed in Mali, Guterres and "the entire UN family express their condolences and sympathy to the loved ones, friends and colleagues of fallen personnel, as we continue to be inspired by their selfless devotion to the cause of peace," Mr. Dujarric said.

The Secretary-General also acknowledged "the key role that MINUSMA has played in the protection of civilians, the mission's support to the peace process, in particular ensuring respect for the ceasefire in the context of the 2015 peace and reconciliation agreement, as well as to the transition, its efforts towards the restoration of state authority and the provision of peace dividends to the population," Dujarric noted.  

Funcionarios electorales de Malí preparan el material para la segunda vuelta de las elecciones presidenciales el día de la votación en un colegio electoral del distrito de Banaconi, en Bamako -
Malian election officials prepare materials for the presidential run-off election on polling day at a polling station in the Banaconi district of Bamako. - ARCHIVO: MINUSMA

Supporting the political process    

MINUSMA supported the political process and carried out a number of security-related stabilisation tasks, focusing on key population centres, protection of civilians, human rights monitoring, creation of conditions for humanitarian assistance and the return of displaced persons, as well as preparation for free, inclusive and peaceful elections.

The peace operation was also mandated to use all necessary means to address threats to the implementation of its mandate, which included the protection of civilians under imminent threat of physical violence and the protection of UN personnel from residual threats, within its capabilities and areas of deployment.  

End of the mission  

Mali's Foreign Minister called for the withdrawal of MINUSMA at a UN Security Council meeting on 16 June. On the same day, the transitional government issued a communiqué reiterating its demand that the UN mission withdraw without delay.

UN peacekeeping mandates are determined by the Security Council but, politically and practically, missions cannot operate without the support and cooperation of the host authorities.

On 30 June, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted Resolution 2690, which effectively terminates MINUSMA's previous mandate and calls for the transfer of its tasks, as well as the safe and orderly drawdown and withdrawal of the Mission by 31 December 2023, to be followed by a liquidation period.  

ARCHIVO ONU/Marco Dormino Un miembro del personal civil de las Naciones Unidas explica el mandato de la misión de mantenimiento de la paz, MINUSMA, a estudiantes en Bamako, Malí. (Foto de archivo: 2013)
 A UN civilian staff member explains the mandate of the peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, to students in Bamako, Mali (File photo: 2013). - ARCHIVO ONU/Marco Dormino

Integrated drawdown plan  

To meet this objective, MINUSMA developed an integrated drawdown plan based on ensuring the safety and security of UN personnel, meeting the 31 December deadline, safeguarding the mission's legacy and preserving an environment conducive to the UN's long-term engagement in Mali.

Since 1 July, MINUSMA has been gradually withdrawing its personnel and handing over its bases to the Malian civilian authorities to the extent possible.   

Over the past six months, MINUSMA has been withdrawing its personnel under difficult security circumstances. By Sunday, the mission will have completed its withdrawal.  

The liquidation period begins  

On Monday 1 January 2024, the liquidation period begins. A smaller team and the rearguards of troop- and police-contributing countries will remain at the Gao and Bamako sites to oversee the orderly transportation of assets and the proper disposal of UN-owned material, according to the UN spokesperson.  

In this regard, the Secretary-General counts on the full cooperation of the transitional government to ensure that this process is completed as soon as possible, he added.  

ARCHIVO/ONU/Sylvain Liechet Cascos azules de Chad patrullan las calles de Kidal en Mali.
Chadian peacekeepers patrol the streets of Kidal in Mali -ARCHIVO/ONU/Sylvain Liechet 

MINUSMA goes, but UN stays  

Wane said the mission may leave, but the UN will remain in Mali. "UN funds, agencies and programmes were in Mali long before MINUSMA's deployment and will remain in Mali long after the withdrawal," he said.

Echoing this statement, the UN Secretary-General on Saturday reaffirmed the UN's commitment to work with the Malian people and the transitional government towards the restoration of constitutional order, as well as the promotion of peace and security and sustainable development, his spokesperson said.

The entire UN system, including the 21 UN Country Team agencies, funds and programmes in Mali, in collaboration with the UN Office for West Africa and the Sahel (UNOWAS) and the Special Coordinator for Development in the Sahel, will continue its support towards the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the country.

These efforts include promoting the goals jointly agreed by the United Nations and the Government of Mali in the Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework for 2020-2024, Mr. Dujarric added.

ONU/Marco Dormino Los habitantes de Tombuctú pasan junto a la mezquita de Djingareyber, una de las estructuras arquitectónicas históricas que le valieron a la ciudad ser declarada Patrimonio de la Humanidad por la UNESCO.
Timbuktu residents walk past the Djingareyber Mosque, one of the historic architectural structures that earned the city UNESCO World Heritage status. - ONU/Marco Dormino