The United Nations is carrying out what its Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, has called an “unprecedented six-month withdrawal” of peacekeepers from Mali on the orders of the West African country’s military junta, which has brought in mercenaries from Russia’s Wagner Group to help fight the conflict. Islamist insurgency, according to the Associated Press.
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations in Mali, Al-Qasim Wayne, reviewed the scale of the operation before the Security Council, on Monday. “All 12,947 United Nations peacekeepers and police personnel must be sent home and their 12 camps and one temporary base handed over to the government there,” he said.
The United Nations will also terminate the service of 1,786 civilian employees by the deadline scheduled for December 31.
For his part, Mali’s ambassador to the United Nations, Issa Konforo, said that the government is cooperating with the UN peacekeeping mission, known as “Minusma”, but will not extend the deadline.
Wayne stated that the United Nations also needs to transfer about 5,500 sea containers that include equipment, and 4,000 vehicles belonging to the United Nations and the countries that contributed personnel to the mission in order to achieve stability in Mali as part of the fourth largest UN peacekeeping operation.
The process of withdrawing forces began, and it will continue during the “liquidation” period, which will begin on the first of January next, and will last for 18 months, with the United Nations keeping police elements in three centers: Bamako, Gao, and Timbuktu.
Mali has been witnessing turmoil since the military coup in 2012, which was followed by rebels in the north establishing a branch of ISIS there two months later.
A French-led military operation defeated the extremist rebels, driving them from power in the north, but they moved to Mali’s most populous center in 2015 and are still active there, according to the Associated Press.