The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) announced on Sunday that it had “anticipated” its withdrawal from a base in Ber, in the north of the country, “due to the deteriorating security situation in the area.
” The departure of the Burkinabe peacekeepers occupying this base was scheduled as part of MINUSMA’s withdrawal from Mali, as decided by the UN Security Council at the end of June.
“MINUSMA anticipated its withdrawal from Ber due to the deteriorating security situation in the zone and the high risks it poses to our peacekeepers. It calls on the various actors involved to refrain from any acts that could further complicate the operation.”
The departure of the Burkinabe peacekeepers from Ber was planned as part of MINUSMA’s withdrawal from the country by the end of the year. The first departure took place on August 3 in Ogossagou, which the army announced it now controls despite “numerous incidents” with “terrorist groups” and the interests of the former Tuareg rebellion.
MINUSMA is implementing the decision made by the UN Security Council at the end of June to immediately terminate the mission deployed since 2013, at the request of the junta that came to power by force in 2020. The withdrawal of approximately 11,600 soldiers and 1,500 police officers from dozens of nationalities is planned to be completed by December 31.
In a statement released on Sunday evening, the Malian army, Fama, announced that “as part of the Minusma handover process”, it “took control of the Ber camp on Sunday, August 13 around 8:30 am (local and GMT time) after numerous incidents that marked the movement of (its) units.”
The army reported various incidents with “armed terrorist groups” on the way to Ber to retake the camp, including “an attempt to infiltrate the formation and harassment fire” against its troops on Friday, and other “clashes” resulting in “six deaths and four injuries” in its ranks. The same statement mentioned sporadic gunfire targeted at the soldiers advancing towards Ber without specifying the identity of the attackers.
In recent days, the Ber area has also been the scene of tensions between the army and the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA), the former Tuareg rebellion, according to the latter organization.
The CMA stated on X that MINUSMA should “simply leave (Ber) and not hand over” the camp to the army. The CMA accused Fama of insisting on occupying areas of MINUSMA, including those under CMA control, and issued a statement sent to AFP on Saturday.
The CMA stated that the gap has widened with the junta, which it accuses of undermining the 2015 Algiers peace agreement it signed with Bamako. The CMA also criticized the military for approving a new constitution in June that, in its view, compromises this agreement.
In another sign of tension, it announced on Friday that it had “repelled a complex attack carried out by Fama and Wagner,” in a statement released on the same day without providing a casualty count.
The CMA announced on Thursday that all of its representatives had left Bamako for “security reasons.”Since taking power, the junta has emphasized sovereignty, ending its alliance with France and its partners against jihadism to military and politically turn towards Russia.
Since 2012, Mali has been plagued by a deep security crisis that started in the north and spread to the center of the country, as well as neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.