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‘Dead blow’: Mali rebels warn against departure of UN peacekeepers

A coalition of Malian rebels has warned that the withdrawal of the peacekeeping force MINUSMA could undermine a peace deal.

The departure of the UN peacekeeping mission from Mali would be a “fatal blow” to the peace deal and threaten stability in the entire region, a coalition of armed groups in the country’s north warned on Wednesday.

Mali’s military government on Friday asked the peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA, to leave “without delay,” a claim that followed years of strained relations between the United Nations and Bamako’s military leadership.

In May, tens of thousands of protesters gathered in the country’s capital, Bamako, calling on the UN mission known as MUNISMA (the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) to leave the country, saying it had failed to bring peace.

But the coalition, the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), said in a statement on Wednesday that MINUSMA’s exit “would threaten the security of Mali and the entire region without a credible alternative”.

A government spokesman did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

It is not clear if or when Minusma will leave. The force has been in the West African country since 2013 after a Tuareg-led separatist rebellion was hijacked by armed groups that killed thousands and controlled large parts of the north and center.

MINUSMA has struggled to contain the violence, but it has played a role in pacifying the separatists, who halted their attacks in 2015 with the Algiers Accord.

Still, the signatories are at odds with the military government that consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021. In December, the CSP-PSD withdrew from negotiations, saying it would only return to the table in a neutral country under international mediation. .

MINUSMA’s mandate expired on June 30 and negotiations were underway to extend it ahead of Mali’s announcement. Security experts said an orderly withdrawal of 13,000 troops and equipment could take at least a year.

There were fears that the country – which has burned bridges with Western allies since the coup and turned to Russian private military contractor Wagner Group for help – could plunge deeper into chaos if separatist sentiment resurfaced.

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