In der nächsten Woche entscheidet der UN Sicherheitsrat über die Verlängerung des MINUSMA-Mandats. Joseph Stepansky hat dazu auf Al Jazeera 26.06.20 diverse Stellungnahmen zusammengetragen, die eine Verlängerung überwiegend befürworten, die zugleich aber an einen Erfolg der Mission nicht glauben – nicht zuletzt aufgrund der changierenden Positionen des postkolonialen Staats, dessen Eliten von den anhaltenden Konflikten zu profitieren versuchen.
Often dubbed the UN’s most „dangerous mission“, MINUSMA will enter its eighth year at the centre of a multilayered and complicated conflict that has spread across the Sahel, a semi-arid region directly south of the Sahara desert in northwestern and central Africa.
Its challenges are myriad: a volatile environment that often proves deadly for UN forces, restricts peace-building initiatives and keeps the mission on a defensive footing; an inconsistent Malian ruling class; and a shifting and complex crisis that has exploded in the centre of the country that lacks an adequate framework for resolution.
Despite such obstacles, Security Council members have not yet been able to deny that the 15,000-strong mission, which includes 13,000 peacekeepers, is a necessity in a country considered the epicentre of the wider security crisis in the region, said Paul Melly, a consulting fellow at Chatham House’s Africa Programme. […]
MINUSMA’s strategic priority first focused on the sprawling north, a flat and unforgiving desert and semi-desert area about the size of Afghanistan. Its mandate included protecting civilians, aiding in implementing a 2015 peace agreement between the government and some separatist groups in the north, helping to re-establish the state authority and building the security sector, which was and continues to be largely absent in some regions.
The mission is also charged with monitoring human rights abuses by armed groups and the array of security forces operating in the country, a tenuous role, at times, since MINUSMA works in cooperation with many of those forces. […]
Attacks in Mali have spread into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso and grew fivefold between 2016 and 2020, with 4,000 people killed in 2019, up from about 770 killed in 2016, according to the UN. This year, the unrest including armed group attacks and intercommunity violence has so far killed 580 civilians just in central Mali.
Meanwhile, the number of people forced to leave their homes due to the rapidly deteriorating security situation in the region has surged from about 600,000 internally displaced people recorded in May 2010 to 1.5 million by April 2020.
The evolving situation, and the increase in violence perpetrated by „jihadist“ armed groups in central Mali, as opposed to the northern rebel separatist groups, has created a unique position for the UN mission, said Ibrahim Yahaya Ibrahim, a senior Sahel analyst at the International Crisis Group (ICG).
„MINSUMA is not a force that does counterterrorism,“ he said. „However, it collaborates with other forces that operate on the ground … So it is not unengaged in the counterterrorism arena, even though it does not engage directly in it.“ […]
The US, citing the security deterioration in recent years, has repeatedly called for a „major drawdown“ in the mission and that it be repurposed with the sole aim of protecting civilians.
Meanwhile, France, which has taken the most active military role of any foreign power in its former colony since its 2013 intervention, sees MINUSMA as an essential component of a broad coalition of forces currently attempting to root out armed groups.
The forces operating in the Sahel include France’s Operation Barkhane, whose roughly 5,000 troops are largely based in the north and east of the country; the internationally supported G5 Sahel Joint Force, which is mostly composed of troops from neighbouring Sahel countries while operating in the south, centre and east of Mali; a European Union training mission that supports Malian security forces; and the recently approved task force Takuba, an EU special forces initiative set to be operational in the restive tri-border region of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger by 2021.
Still, insecurity has continued to reign.
Just two days after a virtual UNSC meeting on June 11 to discuss the mandate’s renewal, „unidentified armed assailants“ attacked a logistical convoy of the UN mission travelling between the towns of Tessalit and Gao, killing two Egyptian peacekeepers. Such incidents occur regularly. […]
Prior to the recent demonstrations, CSIS’s Devermont wrote in December 2019 that Mali’s political class has appeared more reticent than other leaders in the region to find a solution to the complex crisis, noting that they have not appeared to view the issue as relevant to the 90 percent of their constituents who live in the more hospitable south.
„The politics in Bamako and the southern part of the country are paramount and supersede the troubling developments in northern and central regions,“ wrote Devermont. „Not only has the government faced little sustained pressure to address insecurity, but it may believe there is an unacceptable political cost to doing more, particularly because it believes the violence does not pose an existential threat to stability in the country’s south.“
He added: „Mali’s political and business classes may have an incentive to prolong the conflict because they benefit from international financial flows into the country.“
A lack of inclusivity in the government, as well as corruption and allegations that some officials are involved in criminal networks that fund the violence, have all hindered attempts at reconciliation in the centre, despite a political peace-building initiative led by Bamako and supported by MINUSMA.
„The government has its plans for how to deal with the centre of the country. And the best [the UN] basically can do is support any kind of the local mediation that is ongoing and support the parties wherever they are willing to do something,“ SIPRI’s van der Lijn said.