Mali rebels say UN peacekeeping departure will kill peace deal
PHOTO CAPTION: UN peacekeepers patrol in Kidal, Mali, July 23, 2015. REUTERS/Adama Diarra/File Photo/File Photo
BAMAKO (Reuters) - The departure of a United Nations peacekeeping mission from Mali will strike a "fatal blow" to a peace accord and threaten stability across the region, a coalition of armed groups in the north of the country has warned.
Mali's junta on Friday asked the peacekeeping force, known as MINUSMA, to leave "without delay", a demand that followed years of fraying relations between the U.N. and Bamako's military leadership.
"The departure of MINUSMA without a credible alternative would constitute a threat to security in Mali and the whole region," the coalition, called the Permanent Strategic Framework for Peace, Security and Development (CSP-PSD), said in a statement on Wednesday.
A spokesman for the junta did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not clear if or when MINUSMA will leave. The force has been in the West African country since 2013 after a Tuareg-led separatist insurgency was hijacked by Islamist groups that have gone on to kill thousands of people and control large parts of the north and centre.
MINUSMA has struggled to contain the Islamist violence, but it has played a role in placating the separatists, who halted their offensive in 2015 with the Algiers Accord.
Still, the signatories have been at odds with the junta that consolidated power in two coups in 2020 and 2021. In December, CSP-PSD pulled out of talks, saying it would only come back to the table in a neutral country under international mediation.
MINUSMA's mandate runs out on June 30 and it was in talks to extend it before Mali's announcement. Security experts say an orderly departure of 13,000 troops and equipment could take a year at least.
There are fears the country - which has burned bridges with Western allies since the coups and turned to Russian private military contractor Wagner Group for help - could slide deeper into chaos if separatist sentiments resurge.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Additioal reporting by Sofia Christensen in Dakar; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Edward McAllister and Conor Humphries)