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Mali Expels UN Peacekeeping Rights Chief After Criticism of Russian Military Presence


FILE - A U.N. vehicle patrols the streets in Bamako, Mali, July, 29 2018.
FILE - A U.N. vehicle patrols the streets in Bamako, Mali, July, 29 2018.

Mali’s military government has ordered the rights chief with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country to leave by Tuesday.

Mali’s military government ordered the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s human rights chief on Sunday to leave the country within 48 hours.

Guillaume Ngefa-Atondoko Andali is director of the human rights division of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA).

A government statement read on state TV station ORTM by presenter Ibrahim Traore, and later posted to the station's Facebook page, declared Andali persona non grata, or unwelcome.

He says this measure follows the destabilizing and subversive actions of Mr. Andali, in flagrant violation of the principles and obligations that must be observed by United Nations officials.

The statement said Andali was biased in his selection of witnesses testifying at the U.N. Security Council.

Malian activists Aminata Cheick Dicko at a January 27 security council meeting accused Mali’s government of working with “Russian military partners” who committed rights abuses.

The Malian government’s statement did not mention Dicko by name but accused Andali of selecting “usurpers” to speak to the council.

Several countries have accused Mali of working with Russian mercenaries to fight Islamist insurgents, but the government says it only works with official Russian instructors.

Several journalists and rights groups have reported on alleged abuses committed by Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenaries in Mali.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, MINUSMA, did not immediately comment on the announced expulsion and does not have a spokesperson in Mali.

Mali in July expelled MINUSMA’s spokesman Olivier Salgado after he tweeted about the arrival of Ivorian troops as support for a U.N. contingent.

Mali’s military government said the 46 troops were “mercenaries,” detained them for seven months, and in December sentenced them to 20 years in prison for conspiring against the government.

Three female troops released in September were sentenced to death in absentia.

The government finally released them all in January under threat of sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

Separately, Mali’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced Sunday that Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov would be visiting Mali today and Tuesday.

French troops helped Mali in 2013 after Islamists took over the north of the country but withdrew their forces last year over concerns about Mali’s working with Russian mercenaries.

Mali’s military overthrew the government in August 2020 after popular protests over its failure to stop the insurgents.