Last year this country saw one of the most publicised crisis situations of almost any African country. Rebel forces converging in all regions of the country had seen the complete erasure of any form of concrete governing body. Within the space of 12 months the entire country of Mali had seen itself cut off from all its neighbours following the dramatic and terrifying surge of extremist activity spreading around the country. Furthermore neighbouring countries were simply unable to offer military support due to the need to control the vast number of Malian immigrants fleeing the country on all sides. Even today whilst the conflict in the country has subsided ever so slightly allowing the UN and Malian Officials time to strategize, yet almost 500,000 Malian nationals are still unaccounted for following the mass exodus in the wake of the violence.
However we can’t deny the fact that last year’s deployment of French military forces along with UN Peacekeepers has so far been a huge success in both neutralizing and scattering rebel forces that had largely taking control of sizeable territories in the north of the country and smaller groups that had started looking to take control in key areas around the country’s capital Bamako and in the south of the country.
The French and UN intervention has given Malian Officials and Malian Armed forces some breathing space in their efforts to reinstate some stability in the country. It is important to constantly highlight that they are not only outnumbered substantially by rebel forces but are also woefully unequipped to carry out any large-scale defensive strategies.
Not only that, but the scattering and neutralizing of rebel forces will allow for the UN to now address the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the country. The isolation that the country has felt in the past 12 months has had a catastrophic effect on the resources that are available to humanitarian groups helping to bring food, drink and medicine to those in need. This situation has been made all the more difficult due to the return of so many when Mali held their official election process late last year that has stretched their depleted sources even further. This along with the very poor harvest the country experienced last year due to a lack of rain for crops mean sustenance is at an all-time low.
At a UN conference in Geneva last week the UN highlighted the highly fragmented and strenuous task of providing humanitarian aid in the country. As a result the UN has asked for a reported sum of $569million (Approximately £347.1million) to provide substantial funding needed to revitalise the efforts to provide aid to the many deprived parts of the country.
The UN has reported that while their assessments confirm that the general security of the country has improved drastically the numbers of Malian people experiencing food shortages is expected to rise rapidly if the food and care support in the country isn’t found soon.
Furthermore the UN Security Council has reiterated its desire to see a full-scale deployment of UN Peacekeeping forces to increase the amount of peacekeepers in the country in an effort to keep rebel forces from making another large-scale incursion. They 15-member council insists that while conflict is at arguably its lowest point in the last 18 months the rebel forces are simply regrouping for another substantial surge.
In an official statement the council said that: – “The Security Council stresses the importance of achieving without delay the complete operational deployment of MINUSMA (UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) to stabilise key population centres and to protect civilians.”
Whilst the UN has indeed expressed its desire to implement further support to protect and stabilise the country while it continues to re-emerge it still insists that the primary stabilisation process of the country lies with the Malian government and armed forces to see it through.
Special praise therefore must go to the French and UN intervention in the country for a number of reasons. The key reasons being not just being able to drive the threat of rebel forces out of key parts of the country and restoring order but also providing the grounding that Mali needs as it continues to pull itself out of political cataclysm and economic decline.
Not only that but along with the evidence that they economic and diplomatic situation in the country is gradually improving but with these efforts it makes attempts to get UN humanitarian work funding and supplies more and more positive and possible. Whilst I have always personally pushed the idea that the primary solution comes through the efforts of confidence and authority from the national governing body and armed forces, I am also incredibly aware that, as I stated in my previous article, this cannot truly be possible without the appropriate support.
Therefore the deployment of further UN peacekeepers could be a real signal of intent that both the UN and Malian hierarchy are both equally ambitious in their efforts to bring back structure to the nation. So in my mind these steps currently being taken me show a short-term dependency from Mali on UN resources, but only for the benefit of the integral structure of the country that is likely to become more prominent and positive over the next 12 months.
BY: ROBERT PRITCHARD