After Britain, Germany announces that it wants to withdraw its troops from Mali by the end of 2023

After the United Kingdom, Côte d’Ivoire and Egypt, it is Germany’s turn to announce in recent days its desire to withdraw its troops engaged in Mali within the UN mission (Minusma). “German soldiers must end their involvement in the UN peacekeeping operation Minusma by the end of 2023 at the latest,” a government source said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity. This decision is subject to an agreement in principle within the German government and an official announcement should take place next Tuesday, according to the same source.

More than 12,000 soldiers and 1,700 UN police officers, including 1,100 Germans, are present in Mali as part of the deployment of Minusma in the country, launched in 2013, with the specific aim of stabilizing the security situation in the country.

This announcement comes in a context of tensions between the UN and the military junta in power in Mali. As the country has faced recurring jihadist attacks since 2012 and plunged into a deep security and political crisis, Colonel Assimi Goïta in power is getting closer and closer to Russia and its paramilitary group Wagner.

After pushing out the former French ally in early 2022, the junta verbally attacked Minusma several times, whose mandate was renewed in June for one year. On this occasion, Mali had expressed “firm opposition” to the freedom of movement of blue helmets to investigate possible human rights violations.

“Important countries” withdraw

On 14 November, Britain also indicated that it wanted to withdraw its contingent of almost 300 troops present in the force “earlier than expected”.

And a day later, it was the Ivorian army that announced the gradual withdrawal of its troops within the UN force by August 2023. “It is a matter of overall coherence. Other important countries are withdrawing (from Mali), there is no reason for us to stay”, explained Ivorian government spokesman Amadou Coulibaly.

“We remain grateful to Côte d’Ivoire for the services and contributions of all its personnel in Mali and for its continued support in UN peacekeeping operations,” the organization said. Relations between Abidjan and Bamako have been significantly strained in recent months, particularly following the arrest last July of 49 Ivorian soldiers in Mali. After three releases, 46 of them are still detained, and Bamako accuses them of being mercenaries, while Abidjan assures that they had to participate in the security of the German contingent of blue helmets in Mali.

Egypt, for its part, had announced in mid-July that its 1,035 soldiers’ participation in Minusma was being suspended. France, the main power that intervened militarily in Mali, especially through the soldiers of the Barkhane force, had decided in February to withdraw its troops. The last French soldiers left Mali this summer after almost a decade of intervention.

Actors in the region are due to meet next week in Ghana to coordinate their response to instability in the Sahel.

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