The UN mission in Mali, which was in theory designed to act as a counterweight against Islamic terrorist groups there, but in reality worked to support France and its interests in the country, is in trouble. Since the summer of 2022, when French troops pulled out of Mali following a series of squabbles between its new junta and Emmanuel Macron, questions have arisen as to how long the UN mission could last there, given that it was led by a huge contingent of French troops.
There was also the complicated matter of Russian mercenaries arriving in the country later in December of the same year in support of the military regime whose leaders were angry with Macron for not using his forces to protect it, but rather focus on what they interpreted were activates more of a colonial nature.
The accusation from the Mali junta was justified however, as the Elysee was only really concerned with French companies in Mali and their expat workers safety, rather than fighting terrorists.
Many argued at the time that other EU countries who had sent large numbers of soldiers there were just playing a game of politics and supporting Macron, like the British, who under Boris Johnson’s watch sent over 300 soldiers – only later to pull out in November of 2022.
If France and the UK withdrawing troops from Mali wasn’t enough to create a crisis of confidence int the UN mission, then news of Germany now pulling out might raise serious questions over the credibility and objectives of the UN mission.
According to newswire reports, The German government said on May 3rd it had decided to end its participation in the UN mission in Mali by next May over problems, it claims, with the ruling junta although the rising tensions and fears (especially in Berlin) with regards to the war in Ukraine would almost certainly have been a factor given the presence of Wagner troops in Mali.
Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s cabinet said Berlin would pull its 1,110 troops in the UN mission MINUSMA out of the West African country over the next year and pivot towards more humanitarian and development aid for the region.
“Whether we want it to or not, what happens in the Sahel affects us,” Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said in a statement.
“We are reorganising our engagement in the region and will let our participation in MINUSMA run out in a structured fashion over the next 12 months.”
The government said it would “at the same time deepen its civil support for the region” and “strengthen the focus of its engagement on security in Niger, Mauritania and the states on the Gulf of Guinea”.
Defence Minister Boris Pistorius said the recent fighting in Sudan had underlined “how quickly a country’s instability can lead to an existential threat for the lives of our citizens”.
He said Berlin’s goal was to “foster the growing responsibility of Africans for security and stability on their own continent”.
MINUSMA was created in 2013 to help stabilise the country as it battled a jihadist insurgency.
Germany announced last year that it planned to withdraw its troops from the mission by May 2024, a decision now approved by the governing coalition.
It came after the German army, known as the Bundeswehr, had repeatedly run into operational problems with the ruling junta.
The Sahel state has been battling a security crisis since jihadist and separatist insurgencies broke out in the north in 2012. Instability in Mali is of particular concern to neighbouring Morocco which, like France, takes a very hardcore stand on extremist groups in the Sahel.
Mali has since August 2020 been ruled by a military junta, which broke a long-standing alliance with France and other Western partners in the fight against jihadism.
There had also been growing tensions between the UN mission and Mali’s military rulers following the alleged arrival of Wagner operatives from Russia to bolster government forces.