A new United Nations peacekeeping mission for insurgent-beset Mali was launched today as forces from a previous, African-led international force officially donned the blue berets that identify the operations of the world organization. The transfer of authority from the forces of the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) took place during a ceremony in Bamako, capital of the West African country, the entire north of which was occupied by radical Islamists for nearly a year.
“The establishment of MINUSMA is the result of a unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council and has reaffirmed the engagement of the international community to accompany the people of Mali in their quest for stability, peace and prosperity,” Bert Koenders, Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and head of MINUSMA, said at this morning’s ceremony.
The conflict, which began in early 2012 with a rebellion of ethnic Tuareg groups, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Government to request assistance from France to halt the southward march of the extremists, as AFISMA gradually built strength.
In April, the Security Council approved the 12,600-strong MINUSMA to take over from the African-led force, authorizing the blue helmets “to use all necessary means” to carry out security-related stabilization tasks, protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artefacts and create the conditions for provision of humanitarian aid.
MINUSMA’s core task is to support the political process in Mali, in close coordination with the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“We continue to work in close collaboration with the African Union, ECOWAS and other international partners, including the French forces, to support the Malian people in that quest,” said Mr. Koenders, who was accompanied at the ceremony by Herve Ladsous, Under-Secretary-General for UN peacekeeping operations, as well as by Malian and African Union officials.
Mr. Koenders, noting that MINUSMA would gradually built to its authorized military strength in the months to come, appealed to the UN Member States to provide adequate resources, including specialized units and “force multipliers” such as combat helicopters.
“The challenges to be confronted by MINUSMA are multiple and numerous,” he said, pointing to not only “immense” security and logistics issues, but also to those in the political and socio-economic and spheres, making, he stressed, wide partnerships critical to success.
With its launch today, MINUSMA becomes the third largest peacekeeping operation of the UN among the 16 currently deployed across the world, according to its authorized force levels.