UN chief in Mali to back peacekeeping mission
BAMAKO, May 29, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – United Nations Secretary General Antonio
Guterres arrived in Mali on Tuesday to show support for UN peacekeepers
facing an Islamist insurgency that has killed scores of their colleagues.
Guterres, received at the airport by Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar
Keita, went to the UN’s MINUSMA base for ceremonies marking the International
Day of UN Peacekeepers.
Guterres paid tribute to “the brave men and women serving in our mission in
Mali, our operation with the highest casualties last year. At their own
personal risk, they save lives serving the cause of peace.”
Twenty-one troops and seven civilians with MINUSMA died last year, the UN
said last week. It was the highest number of fatalities of any UN
peacekeeping mission for the fourth year running.
MINUSMA has 12,500 military and police personnel. It has lost more than 160
people since it deployed in 2013 — a figure that accounts for more than half
of UN peacekeeping fatalities over this period.
During his two-day “solidarity visit” to the capital Bamako and the
provinces, Guterres will observe the fasting ritual of Ramadan, the UN said.
He is being accompanied by the UN’s top officials for peacekeeping and
logistical support, and by the head of Unicef, Henrietta Fore.
Northern Mali fell into the grip of al-Qaeda-linked jihadists in 2012.
Most of them were ousted or dispersed by a French military operation, which
was launched in January 2013 and continues to this day.
MINUSMA deployed to help stabilise the area, but swathes of the territory
remain lawless, and attacks have spilled over to the centre and south of the
country and into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.