Mali: Attack on UN Peacekeepers’ Base Leaves 20 Injured

A temporary base of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali, MINUSMA, came under attack in the restive central region of the country on Wednesday. The attack left some 20 UN peacekeepers injured.

 MINUSMA in a statement said the ‘blue helmets’ under fire were able to repel the attackers, who fled after delivering a “robust response”.

The base was located in Kéréna, in the vicinity of Douentza, where peacekeepers have been carrying out numerous security operations in recent months, according to head of the mission.

It has been a deadly year so far for those putting their lives on the line from the mission. Five peacekeepers died in one week during attacks in mid-January.

Special Representative and MINUSCA chief, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, “strongly condemns this cowardly attack against the peacekeepers”, said the statement, adding that the main objective of the UN security operations has been “to help reduce violence against populations, restore calm in areas where community tensions are reported, and reduce the threat of improvised explosive devices”.

The Malian government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild the volatile country’s institutions following a series of setbacks since early 2012 that fractured the country, including a failed coup d’état, renewed fighting between government forces and Tuareg rebels, and the short-lived seizure of its northern territory by radical extremists.

Last year military leaders staged a coup, and in September, agreed to establish a transitional Government for a period of 18 months, promising fresh elections and a return to civilian rule.

Mali for the Malians

The MINUSMA chief has ensured that “all measures” have been taken the ensure the injured blue helmets “receive prompt and appropriate treatment”, according to the press release, and he wished all of those serving in what is the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping operation, a speedy and full recovery.

Annadif said that operations by MINUSMA troops to secure areas from extremist and other armed groups, were succeeding against “the enemies of peace”, and that the mission remained committed “alongside the Malians, for the Malians.”

In February 2019, UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, and the UN Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the attack against vehicles of the peacekeeping mission in Mali, in which three “blue helmets” from Guinea were killed and at least another injured.

The peacekeepers were killed in the area of Siby, near the capital, Bamako.

Guterres and the members of the Security Council extended their condoleances to the families of the fallen, wished the injured a speedy and full recovery, and expressed their solidarity with the people of Guinea and with those who risk their lives serving in the mission.

Guinea is the eight largest contributors of troops to MINUSMA, with 869 women and men serving in it.

The UN chief cautioned that any attack against UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime and called on the Malian authorities to “spare no effort in identifying and swiftly bringing to justice the perpetrators of this attack”.

UN Security Council added that” involvement in planning, directing, sponsoring or conducting attacks against MINUSMA peacekeepers constitutes a basis for sanctions designations pursuant to United Nations Security Council  resolutions”.

After a failed coup six years ago, a proliferation of armed groups fighting government forces and their allies in the centre and northern areas of the country has plunged the country into conflict.

MINUSMA is the deadliest mission to serve in as a UN ‘blue helmet’ with more than 180 paying the ultimate sacrifice, since it was established in 2013. In 2019 alone, the number of fatalities stands at 15.

The UN chief reaffirmed nonetheless in his statement on Saturday the determination of MINUSMA,  which currently has 16,227 deployed personnel, to “continue implementing its mandate in support of the people and Government of Mali in their quest for peace”.

This was echoed that by the UN Security Council members who stressed that “these heinous acts will not undermine their determination to continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Mali”.

In 2015, a UN-backed peace agreement was signed by armed groups — the  Coordination des Mouvements de l’Azawad and the Plateforme coalition of armed groups — and the Government of Mali. However, continued violence has rendered its implementation very challenging.

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