Mali to restrict movement of UN forces as it reasserts authority
Mali vowed on Wednesday to defy a United Nations Security Council call for the West African country to allow freedom of movement for peacekeepers to investigate alleged human rights abuses.
The council extended a nine-year-old UN peacekeeping operation - known as MINUSMA - for another 12 months on Wednesday with 13 votes in favour, while Russia and China also objected to the rights mandate of the mission and abstained.
Mali's military took power in a 2020 coup and has cut ties with former colonial power France as a Russian private military contractor, Wagner Group, steps in to help with a decade long battle against militants and terrorists.
MINUSMA claims it has documented 320 rights violations by Mali's military between January and March.
"Mali is not in a position to guarantee the freedom of movement for MINUSMA's inquiries without prior agreement of the government," Mali's UN Ambassador Issa Konfourou told the council. "Mali does not intend to comply with these provisions despite them being adopted by the Security Council."
He said Mali was responsible for investigating any human rights violations.
"MINUSMA must be able to get access to the areas affected in order to carry out its mandate and to publish quarterly reports on human rights. The perpetrators of violations must be brought to justice," said French UN Ambassador Nicolas de Riviere.
The claims by the French envoy come as Malian troops discovered a mass grave close to a military base French forces handed back to the Malian army in April ago in Gossi.
The Gossi military base in the north of the country was handed over to the Forces Armées Maliennes (FAMa) as part of the French forces' planned exit from the country.
Russia's Deputy UN Ambassador Anna Evstigneeva described the human rights language in the resolution adopted on Wednesday as "intrusive", adding that it "will not help to ensure that the Malians enjoy their sovereign right to protect their own citizens and to investigate any incidents."
A French mission began in Mali in 2013 to allegedly counter militants that Paris claims are linked to the al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorist groups. France, a former colonizer of Africa, also deployed thousands of soldiers to presumably prevent separatist forces from reaching Mali’s capital, Bamako.
The war caused several thousand deaths and more than a million people to flee their homes. There have been two military coups in little over a year, amid growing demonstrations against France’s military presence.