In June, Mali’s military government, which took power in 2020, called for the decades-old mission to be withdrawn.

The United Nations mission in Mali has officially ended a 10-year operation in the country with a withdrawal ordered by the Malian military government, its spokesman said.

The mission, known as the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), lowered the UN flag at its headquarters in the capital Bamako, its spokeswoman Fatoumata Kaba told AFP on Monday.

The symbolic ceremony marks the official end of the mission, she said, although some elements of it still remain.

After January 1, a “liquidation phase” will take place, which includes, among other things, handing over the remaining equipment to the authorities.

A decade of MINUSMA

In June, Mali’s military government, which took power in 2020, called for the withdrawal of the mission, which had been deployed since 2013, despite facing attacks from armed groups in the Sahel.

The withdrawal of MINUSMA troops has raised fears that fighting between Malian forces and armed groups over territorial control will increase.

The mission had stationed about 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali over the past decade. About 180 members were killed by hostile acts.

As of Friday, more than 10,500 uniformed and civilian MINUSMA personnel had left Mali, out of a total of around 13,800 personnel when the withdrawal began, the UN mission said on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

Since being asked to leave, MINUSMA has left 13 positions in Mali and has yet to close sites in Gao and Timbuktu in the north.

Last week, the UN mission handed over the Mopti camp in central Mali, one of the hotbeds of violence that has plagued the Sahel for years.

The Mopti camp most recently housed peacekeepers from Bangladesh and Togo and in the past Egyptian, Pakistani and Senegalese contingents.

The withdrawal went smoothly, unlike recent withdrawals in Mali’s restive north that came amid fears of a military escalation between the army and rebel groups, Kaba told AFP.

A short exit

The U.N. troops were initially welcomed by Malians, who hoped the foreign soldiers could help the Malian military push back rebels who had seized large swaths of territory in the north.

Ten years later, however, the peacekeepers quickly withdraw because the instability is far from resolved. Thousands of people were killed and hundreds of thousands were displaced by the violence.

After seizing power in August 2020, citing increasing insecurity, the Malian government canceled the alliance with the former colonial power France and preferred a rapprochement with Moscow and the private army Wagner Group. Another military takeover took place in May 2021.

The mercenaries’ presence was strongly condemned by Western countries, which argued that the presence of the Wagner mercenaries threatened Mali’s stability. Moscow and Bamako continue to insist that the Russian fighters are simply trainers helping local soldiers fight rebel groups.

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