Mali: UN extends mission, warns progress must be made on peace

MINUSMA, the United Nations' mission in Mali, was established in 2013

United Nations (United States) (AFP) – The 15 members of the UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously renewed its peacekeeping mission in Mali for a year, but warned the West African country must make rapid progress toward peace.

The five-year-old mission “will not be in Mali forever” and the resolution “makes clear that we can accept no further delay” of peace, said Jonathan Cohen, United States Deputy Representative to the United Nations.

“This renewal is not like the previous ones,” added Francois Delattre, French ambassador to the UN. 

It is accompanied by a “strong message” on the need for “substantial progress on the country’s peace process,” he said.

Failing that, the diplomat expressed the possibility of an exit strategy for the UN mission — known as MINSUMA — and “sanctions against those responsible for the blockages.”

The “encouraging” progress of recent weeks “must imperatively be amplified,” Delattre insisted.

Following a 2015 peace deal between the government and armed groups, a presidential election is scheduled for July this year which the UN hopes will be “inclusive, free, fair, transparent” and “credible,” according to the resolution drafted by France.

The text also highlighted the security council’s impatience over “persistent” delays in the full implementation of that peace agreement.

Islamist extremists linked to Al-Qaeda took control of the desert in northern Mali in early 2012, but were largely driven out in a French-led military operation launched in January 2013.

In March, a UN report said Mali continues to be plagued by insecurity, fueled by human, drugs and arms trafficking.

The resolution calls for better-defined priorities for MINUSMA, additional airborne equipment, and suggests a possible long-term exit strategy for the United Nations.

MINUSMA deployed to Mali in 2013 in the wake of the anti-jihadist military operation launched by France and which is still underway in West Africa. 

The G5-Sahel force — formed by Mali, Niger, Mauritania, Chad and Burkina Faso — is also present in the region but has deployed slowly and has had struggles with funding.

MINUSMA is made up of around 15,000 military personnel and police, and is one of the UN’s most important missions. It has paid a heavy price with more than 100 members killed.