The German government said on Saturday it will wind down the deployment of the Bundeswehr peacekeeping troops in Mali in an orderly manner, despite the West African country’s military rulers demanding the forces be withdrawn immediately.
Mali’s top diplomat, Abdoulaye Diop, told the UN Security Council on Friday that the United Nations peacekeeping mission, which Germany participates in, had failed and that the troops must leave.
Diop said the mission, known as Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission (MINUSMA), had not been able to respond adequately to the tense security situation.
MINUSMA was deployed in 2013 to support efforts to restore stability in Mali, which has endured an Islamic insurgency for years. Its mandate is up for renewal at the end of the month.
More than 12,000 soldiers take part in the multinational mission, including hundreds of German soldiers. In November it was decided by Berlin that the German military deployment would end by May 2024.
“Realism means noting the failure of MINUSMA, whose mandate is no longer up to facing the security challenges in the country,” Diop said in New York.
“MINUSMA seems to have become a part of the problem in fuelling inter-community tensions exacerbated by allegations of extreme gravity which are extremely harmful to peace, reconciliation, and to national cohesion,” Diop added.
Tensions between Mali and Western powers with a presence in the country have been growing.
Mali’s junta maintains close contact with Russia and is reported to have hired the Wagner Group of Russian mercenaries.
In response, France, the former colonial power, terminated its counterterrorism operation in Mali and withdrew its forces last year.
In Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Defence Ministry said that the government would support negotiations between the UN and Mali about the future of MINUSMA, while noting that Germany had already announced it would leave the country next year.
“That the Malian transition government and Russia will use the upcoming extension of the UN mandate to make political capital out of it does not surprise us. Our interest remains an orderly withdrawal.”
Since the start of the mission in 2013, around 170 peacekeepers have been killed, making it one of the most dangerous UN operations in the world.
Islamist terrorist groups have also been active in the north and centre of the country for more than a decade.
The Malian military seized power from a transitional government in 2021, pledging initially to hold elections in February 2022.
But these were later cancelled, with the military setting a time frame of five years to hold a democratic vote.
A referendum on a new constitution is to be held on Sunday that aims to pave the way for democratic elections in February 2024.