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Mali suspends new personnel arrivals to UN peacekeeping mission - which includes Irish troops

MINSUMA is the mission in which the Army Ranger Wing is involved.

A man holds a sign during a pro-government rally in Bamako, Mali, May 26, 2015. The sign reads,
A man holds a sign during a pro-government rally in Bamako, Mali, May 26, 2015. The sign reads, "France + Minusma = MNLA", accusing France and UN mission Minusma of being with the MNLA rebel group.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE MALIAN MILITARY Government has suspended all new rotations to a United Nations’ peacekeeping mission in the African country, including those already scheduled, for “national security” reasons.

MINSUMA is the mission in which the Army Ranger Wing (ARW) is involved while other Irish troops are engaged in a European Union Training Mission (EUTM) teaching local forces. 

The ARW are set to finish their work in Mali in September following a decision by Government to end Irish involvement in the mission.  Their work in the country was in long range reconnaissance. 

Sources said that on Tuesday the Irish Cabinet decided to reduce by 30% the deployed number of troops to the EUTM.

Irish troops were training local forces but Minister Simon Coveney, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Defence had previously said in the Dáil that Ireland was monitoring the deteriorating situation in the country. 

It is understood Irish soldiers are training local police at present but that those activities have slowed dramatically in recent months.  

The Malian Government said the suspension will last until a meeting is held to “facilitate the coordination and regulation” of the rotation of contingents, it said in a statement.

The announcement came four days after the Malian authorities arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers it later described as “mercenaries” intent on toppling the country’s military-led government.

Ivory Coast says the soldiers were so-called National Support Elements (NSE) — a UN procedure allowing contingents of peacekeeping missions to call on outside contractors for logistical duties.

The soldiers, who were arrested after arriving at Bamako airport aboard a special flight, comprised the fifth rotation under this scheme, according to Ivory Coast.

The Malian foreign ministry’s statement did not refer to the Ivorians’ arrest.

It gave no date for the meeting to discuss MINUSMA rotations.

However, it assured the UN mission that Mali would “work diligently to create conditions conducive to the lifting of this suspension of rotation, which is an essential step in enabling the deployed contingents to ensure the proper implementation of MINUSMA’s mandate.”

Mali, located in the Sahel region below the Sahara, is now ruled by a military junta following two coups. 

US and European Governments have been monitoring the situation as concerns mounted as the Malian Government employed Russian mercenaries. 

Earlier this year the French Government ordered the withdrawal of French troops in the country. 

The UN mission MINUSMA (Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali) was established in April 2013, following the country’s violent Tuareg rebellion in 2012.

Despite military help from France and the UN, Mali’s government is struggling to quell violence that began in the north of the country, sparked by radical Islamist and Tuareg groups.

At the time, the Malian Army became ill-equipped to fight insurgents, and factions in the army staged a military coup in March 2012.

A deal between different groups was eventually brokered in Burkina Faso, before the establishment of MINUSMA and the deployment of UN peacekeepers in July 2013.

But violence subsequently spread to central Mali, after a predominantly Fulani jihadist group led by preacher Amadou Koufa emerged in 2015.

Contains reporting from © AFP 2022 and Tadhg McNally. 

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