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UN peacekeeping rotations to resume in Mali

Published: Updated:

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, is to resume contingent rotations from Monday under fresh approval procedures, the Malian foreign minister and a UN spokeswoman have said.

“MINUSMA agreed to the new procedures and communicated them to all countries contributing troops. There will be no exception,” Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said Saturday, after the Sahel state suspended the rotations last month over “national security” reasons.

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The peacekeeping force’s spokeswoman Myriam Dessables confirmed the news and said: “Rotations are to resume from Monday.”

The announcement came after Germany said Friday it had stopped reconnaissance operations and helicopter transport flights in Mali until further notice after Bamako denied flyover rights to MINUSMA.

Those rights were refused despite assurances to the contrary from the Malian Defense Minister Sadio Camara in a call with his German counterpart Christine Lambrecht Thursday, the German defense ministry spokesman said.

Diop said the various contingents previously had to seek approval directly from the Malian authorities.

But now “all requests must go via MINUSMA, who will then pass them on to the foreign ministry,” the minister said.

The July 14 suspension of rotations came four days after Mali arrested 49 Ivorian soldiers it later described as “mercenaries” intent on toppling the country’s military-led government.

Ivory Coast said the troops had been sent to provide backup to MINUSMA.

The peacekeeping mission acknowledged there had been “dysfunctions” in deploying the Ivorian troops.

Former MINUSMA spokesman Olivier Salgado was expelled from the country for publishing what the authorities deemed “unacceptable” information on Twitter following the arrest.

MINUSMA -- the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali -- was launched in 2013 to help one of the world’s poorest countries cope with a bloody extremist campaign.

It is one of the UN’s biggest peacekeeping operations, with 17,609 troops, police, civilians and volunteers deployed as of April, according to the mission’s website.

Mali has been ruled by a military junta since 2020.

The junta has turned away from France and toward Russia in its fight against the extremist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.

France is pulling out the last of its military equipment from the country.

On Saturday, residents in the southeastern Menaka region said Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) extremists had attacked the Assaylal district, “killing seven civilians and taking with off their cattle.”

It comes after a suspected terrorist attack in the town of Tessit, near the borders with Niger and Burkina Faso, killed 42 Malian soldiers on Sunday last week. The army blamed ISGS.

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