Tuareg rebels claimed the capture of a military base left vacant by the UN in Kidal, a strategically significant city in northern Mali. This development may lead to intensified clashes with the Malian army, which aims to regain control of the region.
The UN mission in Mali departed from its Kidal camp on October 31, leaving the Tuareg-dominated separatist rebellion to assume control. This move places the junta in power in Bamako in a difficult position, as they now have to determine how to respond to this act of defiance by rebels for whom Kidal is a stronghold. These rebels have recently taken up arms, challenging the junta’s commitment to restoring territorial sovereignty in a country plagued by jihadism and instability since 2012.
The withdrawal from Kidal also underscores the deteriorating conditions under which the UN mission is leaving Mali, following the junta’s orders after ten years of deployment.
In the morning, the blue-helmeted peacekeepers left their Kidal camp in a long convoy of dozens of white vehicles bound for Gao, a major northern city approximately 350 km away, according to sources within the mission. This marks the third and final camp vacated by the UN mission in the Kidal region, following Tessalit and Aguelhok.
The rebels swiftly took control of the area, as confirmed by a local official speaking anonymously to AFP.
The Permanent Strategic Framework (CSP) “now takes control of the areas vacated by the Minusma in Kidal,” stated an alliance of rebel groups in a press release.
The Malian army expressed its regret via social media, noting that the Minusma had once again departed without returning the camp to the authorities.
The delicate evacuation operation in Kidal had been anticipated for weeks as one of the most volatile actions conducted by the Minusma since August.
Kidal is under the control of the rebellion. These groups, which had reached a peace agreement with the government in 2015, have recently resumed hostilities. They oppose the Minusma’s handover of its camps to the Malian authorities.