Bamako (Agenzia Fides) - While international attention is focused on Niger, in Mali the process of withdrawal of the Blue Helmets of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has begun. The withdrawal of the peacekeeping force was decided by the UN Security Council on 30 June.
The process of withdrawing the 11,600 soldiers and 1,500 police officers provided by various countries is to be completed by 31 December and includes the return to the Malian army of the 12 bases established over the past ten years throughout the country. So far, three bases have been closed in Ogossagou, Ber and Goundam in the Timbuktu region in northern Mali. While the withdrawal of the UN military took place without incidents at the Ogossagou and Goundam bases, the Malian military claims to have foiled an attack on the newly returned base by alleged Tuareg rebels in Ber.
The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA the organization that groups the different Tuareg movements that signed the Algiers peace agreement) rejects the accusations and instead retorts that there was an attack by the military against one of its positions located near the town of Ber. The CMA said it held "the transitional government responsible for the serious consequences that will result from its decision to break the ceasefire".
A deep rift has been created between the military junta that seized power in Bamako in the coup of 24 May 2021 and the CMA, which accuses the coup plotters of calling into question the 2015 Algiers peace agreement signed with the Malian authorities.
The CMA, which criticizes the military for having approved a new constitution in June that it claims would undermine the peace agreements, has announced the departure of all its representatives from Bamako for 'security' reasons.
MINUSCA's departure therefore risks blowing up the last bulwark of the Algiers Agreement, that of an interposition force capable of intervening to nip discord in the bud. All this in a context where several jihadist groups dispute control of the territory to the authorities in Bamako.
The Blue Helmets themselves admitted that "it took them just over two days to travel the 57 kilometres from Ber to Timbuktu, they were attacked twice, on 13 August. Four Blue Helmets were injured'. The attacks were allegedly conducted by the Support Group for Islam and Muslims (GSIM), a jihadist alliance affiliated with Al-Qaeda. The jihadists have imposed a blockade for several days in Timbuktu, where product prices have started to rise. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 23/8/2023)