But Secretary-General António Guterres’ internal review of the 17,500-person UN mission, known as MINUSMA, released this week found that long-standing security partnerships with Mali, France and others have led to the Wagner Group’s personnel backing the Malian army. He pointed out that it was exacerbated by concerns. He said Russian officials have publicly confirmed.
US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills said the US welcomed the UN recognition in its internal review of the Wagner Group’s presence in Mali.
He called Wagner “a criminal organization that has perpetrated widespread atrocities and human rights abuses in Mali and elsewhere.” The US has hit several waves of sanctions against Wagner and its owner, Evgeny Prigozhin, a rogue billionaire with long-standing ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last year, France withdrew troops from Mali, which has helped drive Islamic extremists out of the country for nine years, following tensions with the ruling military junta and the arrival of Wagner’s mercenaries.
France’s deputy UN ambassador Natalie Broadhurst told the Security Council on Friday that “their presence equates to regular abuses of civilians in Mali and an increase in MINUSMA’s obstruction.” “This is unacceptable.”
Mali has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012. Militant rebels have been seized from power in northern Mali cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but they regroup in the desert and launch attacks on the Malian army and its allies. Did. Security has also deteriorated in central Mali due to attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers.
In August 2020, Mali’s president was overthrown in a coup that included then-army colonel Asimi Goita. In June 2021, Goita became president of the interim government after carrying out his second coup in nine months.
Diop told the council that Goita is “firmly committed to holding a referendum on the draft constitution in March, electing parliamentarians in October and November, and holding presidential elections in February 2024. ‘ said.
He said the government remains committed to defending its territory, protecting its people and implementing the 2015 peace agreement.
The peace deal was signed by three parties: the government, a coalition of groups called the Coordinating Azawad Movement, which includes Arabs and Tuareg ethnic groups seeking autonomy in northern Mali, and a government-backed militia known as the Platform. Suspended participation in December.
Diop said he “deplores” their decision, but “hopes to reach a common understanding with the brothers from the petition soon.”
Secretary-General Guterres’ internal review of MINUSMA called Mali “one of the most difficult operating environments for peacekeeping”, citing significant air and ground restrictions imposed by Malian security services. increase. The restrictions put peacekeepers at “security risks in an already dangerous environment, with 165 of his peacekeepers killed and 687 wounded in hostilities since July 2013.” there is,” he said.
The secretary-general said the mission’s operations would come under further pressure as the four countries that provided the troops are withdrawing them, meaning a loss of more than 2,250 troops.
Mr. Guterres said MINUSMA’s ability to carry out its missions (protect civilians, help improve the security and political situation, and monitor human rights) will depend on progress in the political transition, progress in implementing peace agreements, He said it depended on the freedom of movement of the maintenance forces and their intelligence services. , surveillance and reconnaissance assets.
The Secretary-General said expanding MINUSMA’s mandate in 2019 without additional personnel would overstretch the mandate and “the current situation is unsustainable.”
He suggested three options. Reconfigure forces to support existing priorities or focus primarily on supporting peace agreements. Or end peacekeeping and turn it into a political mission.
Mali’s Diop said the UN secretary-general’s proposal did not meet Mali’s desire for stronger security operations, including engaging in offensive operations and patrols, especially as part of its mission to protect civilians. rice field.
On human rights, he said the government would “resolutely oppose the instrumentalization or politicization of this issue” but would work to protect rights.
Diop said he participated in the internal review in the hope that the government would “meet the deep aspirations of the people of Mali”.
“It has not materialized,” the foreign minister said. “However, the Malian government remains open to dialogue with the United Nations over the next few months to finally identify the way forward.”
Russian ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzia said security was a “top priority” during Mali’s transition, “because the hasty withdrawal of French and European military forces has left a security vacuum”. rice field.
Nonetheless, he said the Malian army over the past few months had “demonstrated that it can really achieve results in the fight against terrorism”, adding that Russia’s training was “bearing fruit”.
When it comes to options for reconfiguring MINUSMA, Nevenzia said Mali’s needs and opinions are a “first priority.”
In contrast, US Special Envoy Mills expressed serious concern that the interim government’s restrictions on MINUSMA have made a highly volatile operating environment more dangerous for peacekeepers and civilians.
He called for the government to lift all restrictions and reiterated the internal review’s conclusion that MINUSMA’s success depends on the support it receives from transitional authorities.
Mills said the continued obstruction “must force this council to seriously reconsider its support for MINUSMA in its current form.”