Mali: Minusma Withdrawal from Kidal Region Amidst Battles

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The Minusma’s departure from its camps in the Kidal region has triggered battles on the ground, particularly around the Tessalit base, where the Malian army and rebels from the Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) exchanged gunfire on Monday and Tuesday. The conflict is not limited to the battlefield, as diplomatic battles are ongoing within both Malian and UN corridors.

This marks the fourth Malian military flight to land in Tessalit since Thursday, October 12, 2023. The Malian army is airlifting reinforcements, including Malian soldiers, Wagner mercenaries, vehicles, and equipment.

On Monday, October 16, according to UN sources, a Fama aircraft landed around 6:30 a.m. before taking off again 15 minutes later. This occurred despite the CSP rebels positioned around the base and indirectly benefiting from the presence of Minusma, responsible for securing the airstrip, who had not been notified of the plane’s arrival.

The Malian army and Minusma share the use of the runway at Tessalit, where their camps are adjacent.

Ongoing Disengagement in Tessalit and Aguelhoc

Minusma announced on Monday evening that it had “initiated” its withdrawal from the Tessalit and Aguelhoc bases, amid a climate of high tension.

No details regarding the withdrawal modalities or the completion date have been provided, to ensure the safety of troops. However, a UN source noted that “the priority is the personnel and, if possible, sensitive equipment,” and “it must be done by air; there is no other option.”

Minusma also plans to “accelerate” its departure from the Kidal base, a stronghold of rebel groups, originally scheduled for mid-November.

In a separate statement released yesterday, the United Nations emphasized that they have “intensified” their contacts with the Malian transitional authorities to express their “concerns” and underline their responsibility for the safety of peacekeepers during this disengagement.

Adhering to the Withdrawal Plan

Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abdoulaye Diop, has emphasized the Minusma’s “obligation to scrupulously adhere to the withdrawal plan” and the specified timelines. This sentiment was reiterated in an “information note” released on Monday evening, confirming that the “government fully cooperates with the United Nations, particularly regarding authorizations for logistic convoys to support the disengagement.”

Blocked Convoys by Authorities

However, on the same note, the minister justified the blocking of convoys in Gao, for which Minusma has been awaiting authorizations since September 24, as previously noted by Minusma during the weekend.

Abdoulaye Diop cited the “security situation” and concluded firmly, stating, “Authorizations will be issued based on observed improvements.”

Soukaina Sghir

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