Bamako, Mali – 2/27/2023 (African Boulevard News) On Tuesday of last week, a convoy of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) was hit by an improvised explosive device (IED) in central Mali, killing three peacekeepers and injuring five others. The mission confirmed the attack in a tweet, describing the area as “jihadist-torn.” The incident marks another setback for the ongoing operation, which has faced recurrent violence and casualties.
Mali hosts one of the largest UN peacekeeping missions, with over 13,500 military personnel and police deployed to support the country’s fragile security and political transition. However, the mission has also become one of the deadliest, with frequent attacks by Islamist militants targeting UN and Malian forces. IEDs are a common weapon used by the jihadists, who have gained ground and support in the central and northern regions of the country.
According to a report by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in January, 165 peacekeepers had lost their lives and 687 others were wounded in hostile acts since the inception of the mission in July 2013. The report called for stronger and more coordinated efforts by the UN and its partners to counter the persistent security challenges in Mali and the wider Sahel region.
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The Malian government has struggled to curb the insurgency in the north and center of the country, despite the deployment of thousands of foreign and domestic troops, including French and Russian forces. This has left the civilian population to bear the brunt of the violence. Although the Malian government has expressed condolences to the families of the victims and vowed to fight terrorism, the security situation in Mali remains precarious.
In a separate incident in central Mali, at least 12 people were killed and several others wounded in an attack on Kani-Bonzon village on Thursday. Local officials and witnesses attribute the attack to suspected jihadists who rode into the village on motorcycles and opened fire on the inhabitants, most of whom were farmers and traders. Among the victims were women and children, whose relatives gathered to mourn them in a mass funeral on Friday.
The bereaved families have expressed their anger and sadness at the recurrent attacks and the lack of protection from the authorities. “We are tired of burying our loved ones. We demand justice and security. We want to live in peace,” said Amadou Diallo, a relative of one of the victims. The Malian authorities have yet to comment on the latest attack, but President Assimi Goïta, who took power in a military coup last year, has pledged to restore stability and hold elections in 2024.
Many Malians and observers are skeptical, however, that a military-led transition can address the root causes of the conflict, which include ethnic tensions, political grievances, poverty, and the spread of extremist ideology. The jihadist groups, which have expanded their activities to neighboring countries such as Burkina Faso and Niger, seek to impose their version of Islamic law and undermine the authority of the state. The UN and other international actors have warned that the situation in Mali and the Sahel region, which spans much of sub-Saharan Africa, could deteriorate further if more efforts are not made to tackle the drivers of terrorism and instability.