(MENAFN) In a significant development, the United Nations (UN) has commenced the second phase of its peacekeeping withdrawal in Mali by closing its base in Ansongo, located in the northeastern Gao region. This move marks the transfer of the camp, the ninth of 12 bases of the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), to Gao regional civil authorities.
The United Nations, in a statement issued on Saturday, announced that this closure is part of the overall withdrawal plan for MINUSMA, paving the way for the mission's final departure on December 31, 2023.
The decision to withdraw peacekeeping forces from Mali reflects a broader shift in the United Nation's mission, as the country grapples with internal challenges and evolving geopolitical dynamics. Mali has been embroiled in jihadist violence since 2012, prompting the deployment of MINUSMA a decade ago to support the national armed forces (FAMa) in their fight against Islamist insurgency.
The order to end the MINUSMA mission came from Mali's military rulers, who assumed power in a coup in 2020. This move, initiated in June, marked a significant departure from the United Nation's longstanding presence and support in the region. The mission's withdrawal has not only altered the security landscape in Mali but has also heightened tensions, particularly in the northern regions.
The ongoing evacuation of United Nation bases, which housed approximately 15,000 troops, has intensified existing tensions in Mali's north. State security forces, rebel factions, and jihadist groups are vying for control in a complex and volatile situation. Complicating matters, Mali's military rulers terminated military partnerships with former colonial ruler France last year, further altering the geopolitical dynamics in the region.
The separatist groups in Mali, who have opposed the United Nation's handover of military camps to the Malian authorities, argue that such actions violate a 2014 Algiers ceasefire agreement. This agreement was crucial in ending a cycle of Tuareg uprisings, highlighting the intricate challenges and historical complexities that continue to shape Mali's path towards stability.
As the United Nation progresses with its phased withdrawal, the situation in Mali remains fluid, with various stakeholders, including state security forces, rebels, and jihadist elements, actively shaping the future trajectory of the country. The evolving developments underscore the need for careful diplomatic considerations and collaborative efforts to address the multifaceted challenges facing Mali and the wider Sahel region.
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