News / Africa

UN says Mali Still Precarious, Future Peacekeepers Need Equipment

Soldiers from Burkina Faso stand guard at the airport, in Timbuktu, Mali, May 22, 2013.
Soldiers from Burkina Faso stand guard at the airport, in Timbuktu, Mali, May 22, 2013.
TEXT SIZE - +
Reuters
— Armed groups in Mali continue to pose a serious security threat to the entire region while African troops forming the core of a U.N. peacekeeping mission deploying next month are not yet properly equipped, the U.N. chief said in a new report.

France launched a massive military campaign in January which broke al-Qaida-linked Islamist fighters' control over the northern two-thirds of Mali and allowed the Tuaregs to regain control of their traditional fiefdom of Kidal.

But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a report to the Security Council on Saturday that despite the gains made by French troops, Malian security forces and an African force known as AFISMA, the situation continues to be precarious.

"The situation on the ground remains... fluid, with sporadic clashes between armed groups and continued asymmetric attacks across the three regions of the north," Ban said in the report, obtained by Reuters.

"Furthermore the advance of the MDSF [Malian defense and security forces] northwards towards Kidal and the fatal clashes with MNLA [separatist Tuareg] elements on 5 June have exacerbated tensions and increased the volatility of the situation in the region,'' it said.
    
To reduce those renewed tensions, Mali's government and Tuareg separatists began talks on Saturday that both sides said they hoped would lead to a cease-fire ahead of national elections next month and pave the way for a permanent peace deal.

The talks in the capital of neighboring Burkina Faso, due to conclude on Monday, follow the first fighting in months between Mali's army and the MNLA rebels this week as government forces advanced toward the Tuaregs' last stronghold of Kidal in the remote northeast.
    
Once the U.N. peacekeeping force, to be known as MINUSMA, is deployed, France will continue to handle counterterrorism and peace enforcement operations as needed in Mali, while the U.N. blue helmets will handle traditional peacekeeping duties of policing and trying to ensure new violence does not erupt.

In April, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a mandate for the 12,600-strong MINUSMA peacekeeping force from July 1. The force will be supported by French troops if needed to combat Islamist extremist threats.

Deployment of the force will be subject to a council review of security in Mali in late June.

Helicopters needed

Ban said the African troops expected to be moved under U.N. command next month must still be brought up to U.N. standards in terms of their equipment and ability to sustain themselves in the landlocked West African country.

"Deployed AFISMA units have been given a grace period of four months to reach the required United Nations standards," the report said. "Critical gaps remain for attack and utility helicopters as well as for information units."

He said the U.N. force could face serious risks on the ground.

"While the operational capabilities of the armed groups have been reduced, attacks in recent months in Mali and the sub-region have shown that they retain the capability to pose a significant threat," Ban said.

"The Malian [security forces] and AFISMA have been targeted. United Nations troops and other United Nations personnel may well face a similar risk."

Ban also said the situation in Mali posed risks to neighboring countries because of the "danger of armed elements moving to neighboring countries to carry out terrorist attacks and engage in criminal activities."
    
There are other problems. Ban said the United Nations has received allegations of serious human rights violations in northern Mali by both the Malian troops and armed groups, including summary executions, arbitrary arrests, enforced disappearances, and destruction and looting of private property.

"The human rights situation in Mali remains of grave concern," the report said.

It said there had also been grave violations against children, including recruitment and use of children as soldiers, sexual violence, killings, maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals.

The report said reports of retaliatory violence by Malian troops against members of the Tuareg and Arab communities have decreased.

"However, in Timbuktu, the risk to these communities remained significant in light of persistent perceptions of their association with armed extremist groups," it said.

"Most members of the Arab and Tuareg communities in the Timbuktu regions have not returned, fearing retaliation by the MDSF [Malian security forces] and the local population."

You May Like

Photogallery Pope's Easter Prayer: Peace in Ukraine, Syria

Pontiff also calls for end to terrorist acts in Nigeria, violence in Iraq, and success in peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians More

Abdullah Holds Lead in Afghan Presidential Election

Country's Election Commission says that with half of the ballots counted, former FM remains in the lead with 44 percent of the vote More

Russia-Ukraine Crisis Could Trigger Cyber War

As tensions between Kyiv and Moscow escalate, so too has frequency of online attacks targeting government, news and financial sites More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid