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MALI – UN leaves base, subject to tensions



The United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) announced Sunday, August 13, 2023 to have “anticipated” its withdrawal from a camp in the north, subject to tensions between the former Tuareg rebellion and the junta, “due to the deterioration of security” in the area where the army recently lost soldiers after a “terrorist” attack.

“MINUSMA anticipated its withdrawal from Ber due to the deterioration of security in the area and the high risks it poses to our peacekeepers,” she said in a message on X (formerly Twitter), without details of initial departure date and staffing.

It “invites the various actors concerned to refrain from any act that could further complicate the operation,” she adds.

Ber’s departure from the Burkinabe peacekeepers who occupied him was scheduled as part of the withdrawal of Minusma by the end of the year from that country, with a first departure on 3 August in Ogossagou (centre).

MINUSMA is thus implementing the decision taken at the end of June by the UN Security Council to put an immediate end to the mission deployed since 2013, at the request of the junta that came to power by force in 2020.

The withdrawal of some 11,600 soldiers and 1,500 policemen of dozens of nationalities, who were present in Mali must take place until 31 December.

“The Minusma has left Ber. The camp is completely occupied by the FAMa (Malian army), without incident,” a senior local security official told AFP on Sunday. The junta did not publicly react.

The Ber area has also been the scene of tensions between the Russian army and paramilitary group Wagner and the Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA, former Tuareg rebellion), according to the latter organization.

Minusma must “simply leave (from Ber) and not concede” the camp to another entity, said X, Attaye Ag Mohamed, a head of the CMA.

“The FAMa are holding on at all costs to occupy the Minusma rights-of-way, including those located in areas under the control of the CMA,” the former rebellion, which controls vast areas in the north, said in a statement sent to AFP on Saturday.

The gap has widened with the junta that the CMA accuses of questioning the 2015 Algiers peace agreement that it signed with Bamako.

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MALI – Nigerian military leader’s first visit abroad to Bamako



The head of the military regime in Niger, General Abdourahamane Tiani, landed on Thursday, November 23, 2023 in Bamako and is to meet his counterpart at the head of the Malian junta for his first international visit since the coup in Niamey, found a AFP correspondent.

Mali and Burkina, led by soldiers who came to power in coups in 2020 and 2022, had quickly shown their solidarity with the generals of Niamey after taking power in late July.

Together, they created a “Alliance of Sahel States” (AES) which provides mutual assistance in the event of an attack on the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the three States and strengthened economic ties.

United against international pressure for a return to democratic regimes, the two military regimes are also united against the jihadists whose attacks are ravaging their country.

General Tiani is to stay a few hours in Bamako and meet the head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, for a “friendship and work” visit, according to the Malian presidency.

The duration of the transition in Niger is not yet known, but General Tiani announced shortly after taking power that it would not exceed three years. In Mali, the presidential election scheduled for early 2024 has been postponed indefinitely.

A statement issued on Thursday morning indicates that Bamako will host from 23 November to 1 December two ministerial meetings “with a view to identifying prospects for the operationalization of the AES”, including the drafting of texts, the establishment of the bodies and the procedures for its operation.

The first will bring together the Ministers of Economy and Trade on 25 November for economic development issues. The foreign ministers of the three countries will meet on 30 November for political and diplomatic matters.

These meetings will precede a meeting of defence ministers at a later date.

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MALI – General El Hadj Ag Gamou appointed Governor of Kidal



In Mali, General El Hadj Ag Gamou was appointed Wednesday, November 22, 2023 governor of the Kidal region. One week after the capture of the city, stronghold of the rebels of the CSP (Permanent Strategic Framework), by the Malian army and its proxies of Wagner, the appointment of this military leader Tuareg faithful to the Malian State reveals a strategy of the Malian transitional authorities.

General El Hadj Ag Gamou does not like to appear in public, but he is well known to all Malians, especially in the north. In 2012, while Tuareg army cadres deserted one by one to join the independence rebellion, the one who was still a colonel was the only one to remain faithful to Bamako.

Two years later, Gamou created the Tuareg Imghad and Allies Self-Defence Group (Gatia), a northern armed group, signatory to the future 2015 peace agreement, within the pro-State Malian Platform.

Distrust of the transitional authorities
Two years ago, in December 2021, the transitional Malian authorities disembark him from his post as inspector general of the armed forces. At the time, the CSP is not a rebellion, this coalition still brings together all the armed groups signatory to the peace agreement and the game of General Gamou within it is considered troubled by the leaders of the Transition. But mistrust does not last: today, Bamako is counting on him to bring the inhabitants of Kidal back into the fold of the State.

General Gamou is not from Kidal, but he knows the city and the region well, where he served for a long time. Above all, it is Imghad, a Tuareg fraction considered as «vassal» of that of the Ifoghas, who assumes the traditional leadership in Kidal and from which the main rebel leaders originate. «He is the one who will be able to gather», judges a Malian security source. «He will reassure the Tuaregs», says a close friend of General Gamou.

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MALI- Tuareg separatists deny the existence of a mass grave in Kidal



Tuareg separatists have denied the existence of a mass grave that the Malian army claimed to have discovered last week in Kidal (north), a rebel stronghold city recently taken over by the junta and its allies.

These “allegations”, “obviously fabricated”, are “a pure diversion obviously intended to mask the horrible massacres committed by the terrorist duo Wagner-FAMa (Malian armed forces),” the separatists said in a statement, Wednesday, November 22, 2023.

“In the Kidal region, no allegations even in the form of rumours have ever been reported by any source about human rights violations by CSP-PSD forces,” an alliance of armed groups, they continued.

They denounce “a clumsy maneuver to ignore all the massacres perpetrated” by the Malian armed forces and their allies of the Russian paramilitary group Wagner, whose junta denies the presence.

The Malian army claimed to have discovered this mass grave on 16 November during security operations. This mass grave recalls the atrocities committed by terrorists without faith or law,” the army said, without further details.

After eight years of calm, hostilities resumed in August in northern Mali between regular forces and separatists.

The withdrawal of the UN Mission, pushed towards the exit by the junta in power, triggered a race for control of the territory, the central authorities demanding the return of the camps, the rebels opposing it.

The takeover in mid-November by the army of Kidal, bastion of the independence claim, is a symbolic success for the colonels who took power by force in 2020.

In the shadow of the fighting on the ground, the two sides also clash on social networks, including X (ex-Twitter), TikTok and Facebook, through support accounts, many of which have been created recently, against a background of misinformation.

“Each side gives its version of what is happening on the ground and discredits that of the opponent it presents as propaganda,” Seidik Abba, a Nigerian journalist and political analyst specializing in the Sahel, told AFP recently.

The ruling junta broke the historic military partnership with France and its European allies to turn to Russia and urged the UN mission to leave.

After the departure of French troops from the Gossi base in central Mali, the Malian army also announced that it had discovered “a mass grave” in 2022. The French army had immediately denounced a manipulation, and broadcast drone images showing, according to it, Russian mercenaries burying bodies a few days earlier.

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