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UN Beefs Up Peacekeeping Force in Mali

  • Katarina Höije

FILE - U.N. peacekeepers mark the start of the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission, called MINUSMA, in Mali, July 1, 2013. Another 2,500 peacekeeping troops will be sent to Mali in light of recent violence.

FILE - U.N. peacekeepers mark the start of the 12,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission, called MINUSMA, in Mali, July 1, 2013. Another 2,500 peacekeeping troops will be sent to Mali in light of recent violence.

The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to beef up peacekeeping operations in Mali, in light of attacks making the mission known as MINUSMA the world’s most deadly.

“Today the terrorists are stronger,” said Inhaye Ag Mohamed, the secretary of Mali's peace and reconciliation committee, “and we are asking the U.N. Security Council to reinforce the mandate to adapt to this new situation.”

The Council on Wednesday increased the U.N. mission's force by 2,500, bringing the total to 13,300 troops and just under 2,000 police. The French-drafted resolution, passed on a unanimous vote, also directed MINUSMA "to move to a more proactive and robust posture" to carry out its mandate of supporting the government and re-establishing state authority.

Jihadist groups, which have attacked numerous sites in northern Mali, are extending their reach farther south, even hitting a hotel in Bamako last November.

It is a challenge considered unprecedented in the U.N.’s history.

FILE - Malian and MINUSMA troops carry the flag-draped coffins of two U.N. peacekeepers killed in a bomb attack in Kidal, during their funeral in Bamako, Dec. 18, 2013.

FILE - Malian and MINUSMA troops carry the flag-draped coffins of two U.N. peacekeepers killed in a bomb attack in Kidal, during their funeral in Bamako, Dec. 18, 2013.

Never has a peacekeeping mission faced a situation like the one in Mali, says Kalidou Sidibé, a political analyst and expert on security in West Africa.

"Peacekeeping missions are usually there to preserve the peace,” he said. “In Mali, you have a variety of armed groups involved in trafficking and terrorism activities, and on top of that you have jihadists who know the terrain better than even the homegrown rebels."

Deadly mission

Since deployment in 2013, 68 U.N. peacekeepers have been killed in Mali, making it the U.N.'s deadliest active mission. They have faced ambushes, suicide attacks and IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.

Lately, the U.N. has also faced an increasingly hostile population in the north, as residents accuse peacekeepers of failing to go after terrorists and other groups. But that kind of proactive engagement isn't MINUSMA's current mandate, Sidibé says.

The Malian army is in shambles after the conflict in 2012, and there are no security forces in many northern towns. MINUSMA’s aim is to fill that void, training the police and army to deal with terrorist threats, according to Sidibé.

Analysts, however, say more U.N. peacekeepers may have limited impact, as lasting peace ultimately depends on the Malian government and its security forces.

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