Bamako, August 17, 2023 - The withdrawal of MINUSMA from Mali, requested by the Malian transitional authorities and subsequently approved by the United Nations Security Council in Resolution 2690, is continuing. As part of this process, the MINUSMA camps at Ber and Goundam, in the Timbuktu region, have been closed and formally transferred to the Malian State, through its designated civilian representatives, bringing to three the number of sites evacuated by the Mission. The temporary operational base at Ogossagou, in the Bandiagara region, was closed on August 4. A company of some 200 troops from Burkina Faso manned the Ber base, while a company provided by Côte d'Ivoire and a police unit comprising 140 police personnel from Bangladesh operated in Goundam.
On the occasion of the closure of these two sites, the Mission, through its office in Timbuktu, and the Governor of the region signed documents covering the condition of the sites in question, a description of the infrastructure located there, and the UN's compliance with its environmental obligations. The formal restitution of these two sites to the Malian State symbolizes the end of MINUSMA's presence in the areas concerned, and of the responsibilities assigned to it until now.
The withdrawal from Ber, initially scheduled for around August 15, had to be brought forward to August 13 due to the rapid and marked deterioration of the situation on the ground and the high risks that this posed to the security of the peacekeepers who were deployed there. The convoy, which took just over two days to cover the 57 kilometers between Ber and Timbuktu, was attacked twice on August 13. Four peacekeepers were wounded. On August 16, the Goundam-based peacekeepers reached Timbuktu without incident.
An essential element of MINUSMA's presence in the Timbuktu region, the Goundam base was established in 2014. The peacekeepers deployed there were tasked with helping to protect civilians in the cercles of Goundam, Diré and Niafounké, through patrols and other security operations conducted in coordination with Malian security forces. To a certain extent, these operations have provided a deterrent presence against armed groups, creating conditions that have allowed the return of refugee or displaced populations, the holding of weekly markets essential to the local economy, and access to basic services.
The presence of peacekeepers in the area has also enabled the Mission's civilian components to carry out multiple socio-economic projects benefiting local communities and government services. Since 2014, for example, the Mission has implemented 85 quick-impact projects in the cercles of Diré, Niafounké and Goundam. The overall sum allocated to these projects amounted to 1.4 billion FCFA. A further 20 projects were carried out in these cercles through the MINUSMA Trust Fund, for a total amount of 2.3 billion FCFA. These include infrastructure, basic social services, agriculture, restoration of state authority and capacity building.
With a view to facilitating the extension of State authority, efforts have been made to help strengthen the technical and operational capacities of the security forces, in line with the United Nations Due Diligence Policy on Human Rights. Several initiatives have been launched in this respect, including the construction and equipping of police stations in Goundam and Niafounké. In the same spirit, MINUSMA, in cooperation with the Malian Defense and Security Forces, provided logistical and security support to the Diré Justice of the Peace, whose extended jurisdiction had been relocated to Timbuktu due to insecurity, enabling him to hold mobile court hearings and hear civil cases.
The Ber company operated in a much more difficult security context, marked by multiple terrorist attacks against both the Mission's base and its convoys and patrols. In the first six months of 2023 alone, the Mission's supply convoys suffered six attacks, one of which, carried out on June 9 using an improvised explosive device, left two Burkinabé peacekeepers dead. In addition, and in support of stabilization efforts in the Ber commune, MINUSMA has financed 15 projects in various fields, for a cumulative amount of around 2.8 billion FCFA.
El-Ghassim Wane, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the United Nations and head of MINUSMA, praised the work of the peacekeepers who have worked for years in Ber and Goundam, and the commitment of their respective countries to peacekeeping.
The next base to be vacated by MINUSMA is Ménaka, in north-eastern Mali. The closure of this base towards the end of this month will mark the conclusion of the first phase of MINUSMA's withdrawal plan.