11 April 2018

Mali: UN to Expand Sanctions Blacklist in Mali Amid Growing Violence

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/MINUSMA
MINUSMA peacekeepers patrol the streets of Kidal, Mali.

France has taken the first steps in targeting people and groups undermining a peace deal in the central African country. Mali has witnessed growing unrest, with militant groups targeting UN peacekeepers.

France is set to push forward with a blacklist targeting groups that undermine a peace deal in Mali amid growing violence in the central African country, the country's ambassador to the United Nations said on Wednesday.

Last week two peacekeepers were killed and 10 others wounded during an attack on the UN mission's northeastern camp. Since the mission began in 2013, more than 150 peacekeepers have been killed in action, making it one of the UN's most dangerous deployments.

"We cannot wait any longer," said Francois Delattre, the French ambassador to the UN. "France will, together with its partners, in the coming weeks ... begin work to identify those who obstruct the implementation of the peace agreement."

France is a key guarantor of the 2015 peace deal between the government and several militias, partly because of its role in leading a military intervention aimed at uprooting Islamist groups operating in the country, including al-Qaeda's North African branch.

Sanctions regime

People targeted by the UN Security Council sanctions will be subjected to a global travel ban or asset freeze. The 15-member body established the sanctions regime for Mali last year in a bid to bolster the peace deal.

The sanctions regime specifically targets groups or people violating the peace deal, blocking the delivery of aid, recruiting child soldiers or committing human rights abuses. However, no person or group has yet to be put on the blacklist.

France's efforts come at a time when Mali is witnessing an escalation of violence. UN special envoy for Mali, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, told the council that the situation has become worse since last year, posing a major obstacle to a presidential election slated for July and August.

Losing control

A UN expert report provided to the UN Security Council last month warned that insecurity in Mali "continues to rage," with the conflict spilling into neighboring countries.

It noted that an armed pro-government coalition and a rebel alliance, both of which signed the peace deal, are seeing "progressive decline of their influence in areas traditionally under their indirect or direct control."

More than 13,000 peacekeepers have been deployed as part of the UN mission. Roughly 875 German soldiers form part of the peacekeeping force, part of which focuses on intelligence gathering.

The German government last month signaled its desire to bolster its Mali deployment and support France's counterterrorism operations in the greater Sahel region.

UN peacekeeping missions in Africa

DR Congo: UN's largest mission

Since 1999, the UN has been trying to pacify the eastern region of the DR Congo. The mission known as MONUSCO has nearly 20,000 soldiers and an annual budget of $1.4 billion (1.3 billion euros). Despite being the largest and most expensive mission of the United Nations, violence in the country continues.

Darfur: Powerless against violence

UNAMID is a joint mission of the African Union and the UN in Sudan's volatile Darfur region. Observers consider the mission a failure. "The UN Security Council should work harder at finding political solutions, rather than spending money for the military's long-term deployment," says security expert Thierry Vircoulon.

S.Sudan: Turning a blind eye to fighting?

Since the beginning of South Sudan's civil war in 2013, nearly 4 million people have been displaced according to the UN. Some of them are being sheltered in UN compounds. But when clashes between government forces and rebels broke out in the capital Juba in July 2016, the blue helmets failed to effectively intervene. Later, the Kenyan UNMISS commander was sacked by former UN chief Ban Ki-moon.

Mali: The most dangerous UN mission in the world

UN peacekeepers in Mali are monitoring compliance with the peace agreement between the government and an alliance of Tuareg-led rebels. But Islamist terrorist groups such as AQIM continue to carry out attacks making MINUSMA one of the UN's most dangerous military intervention in the world. Germany has deployed more than 700 soldiers as well as helicopters.

CAR: Sexual abuse scandals making headlines

MINUSCA, the UN's mission in Central Africa Republic has not helped to improve the image of the United Nations in Africa. French troops have been accused of sexually abusing children by the Code Blue Campaign. Three years on, victims haven't got any help from the UN. Since 2014, 10,000 soldiers and 1,800 police officers have been deployed. Violence in the country has receded but tensions remain.

Western Sahara: Hope for lasting peace

The UN mission in the Westsahara known as MINURSO has been active since 1991. MINURSO is there to monitor the armistice between Morocco and the rebels of the "Frente Polisario" who are fighting for the independence of the Western Sahara. In 2016, Morocco which has occupied this territory since 1976, dismissed 84 MINURSO staff after being angered by a statement from the UN Secretary-General.

Ivory Coast: Peaceful end of a mission

The UN mission in Ivory Coast fulfilled its objectives on June 30, 2016 after 14 years. Since 2016, the troops have been gradually withdrawn. Former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said this was a "turning point for the United Nations and the Ivory Coast." But only after the full withdrawal will it be clearly known whether or not the mission was successful on a long-term basis.

Liberia: Mission accomplished

The UN deployment in Liberia is - as in neighboring Ivory Coast - will soon be history. The soldiers are leaving by mid-2017. Since the end of the 14-year civil war, UNMIL has ensured stability in Liberia and helped build a functioning state. Liberia's government now wants to provide security for itself. The country is still struggling with the consequences of a devastating Ebola epidemic.

Sudan: Ethiopians as peace promoters?

The UNISFA soldiers are patrolling the disputed oil-rich region of Abyei. Sudan and South Sudan both claim to be rightful owners of this territory located between the two countries. More than 4,000 blue helmets from Ethiopia are deployed. Ethiopia is the world's second largest peace-keeping contributor. At the same time, the Ethiopian army is accused of human rights violations back home.

Somalia: Future model AU mission?

UN peacekeepers in Somalia are fighting under the leadership of the African Union in a mission known as AMISOM. The soldiers are in the Horn of African country to battle the al-Shabaab Islamists and bring stability to the war-torn nation. Ethiopia, Burundi, Djibouti, Kenya and Uganda, Sierra Leone, Ghana and Nigeria have all contributed their troops for AMISOM.

Author: Martina Schwikowski

(Reuters, AFP, AP)

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