Mali’s prime minister says Mali will renew the U.N. support mission in Mali, even as U.N. efforts to investigate alleged human rights abuses are being blocked by Mali’s military government.
The town of Moura was the site of a military operation in which, witnesses say, the Malian army and foreign soldiers summarily executed hundreds of civilians.
Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga said he recognizes the hesitancy that some countries have expressed in continuing to contribute troops to the U.N mission in Mali. His speech was posted on state TV station ORTM’s Facebook page.
He said the renewal of MINUSMA’s mandate is expected in June 2022 and there should not be a significant change in the mandate even though some countries that are contributing troops suggest they will reassess their level of participation.
Several European military operations have been halted in Mali in recent months, including the Takuba Task Force, the European Union Training Mission, and France’s Operation Barkhane, following tensions with Mali’s government and accusations that Mali’s forces are working with Russian mercenaries employed by the Wagner Group. Several European countries contribute troops to MINUSMA.
The announcement comes as the U.N. has been continually denied access to investigate human rights abuse allegations in the village of Moura.
In March, there were several reports of Malian and foreign soldiers, presumed to have been Russian mercenaries, carrying out summary executions of civilians in Moura, in what Human Rights Watch called “the worst single atrocity reported in Mali’s decade-long armed conflict.”
Alioune Tine, an independent U.N. expert on human rights in Mali, released a statement calling for a prompt investigation. Communicating from Senegal, he expressed optimism at Maiga’s announcement, but said the tension between France and Russia playing out in Mali is not conducive to resolving Mali’s security crisis.
If we have, he said, a space of polarization, of tension between the big powers, I don’t think this is good for Mali, not for all of the Sahel, not even for all Africans.
Andrew Lebovich, a Sahel analyst at the European Council on Foreign Relations, speaking from New York, said that MINUSMA’s mission is conflicted.
“There’s a possible contradiction here, where MINUSMA is supposed to be supporting the transitional government, supporting the state, but also potentially investigating the state and protecting civilians in some cases from the state, and this is something that the mission is going to struggle to deal with, frankly, especially if the current pattern of alleged human rights abuses continues,” he said.
MINUSMA also expressed concern about recent human rights abuse allegations in Hombori, saying in a tweet that it has “the intention of visiting the scene soon.”
Both Tine and Lebovich say it’s rare or unheard of for the Malian government to refuse to grant U.N. investigators access to a site.