Despite difficult conditions, the Bundeswehr initially stayed in the West African crisis country of Mali. On Friday, the Bundestag extended the participation of German soldiers in the Minusma blue helmet mission and in the European training mission EUTM by a further year.
However, the Minusma mandate allows the mission to be terminated early in an emergency. And the training of local armed forces is now concentrated on neighboring Niger.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been rocked by conflicts for years. Islamist groups are particularly active in the north of the country and repeatedly carry out attacks on the military, state institutions and the civilian population. The army staged multiple coups in the capital, Bamako. Most recently, the postponement of elections and the presence of Russian mercenaries in Mali caused tensions between the military government and Western states, which ultimately led to an open rift.
According to the mandate, up to 1,400 Bundeswehr soldiers can take part in the UN mission Minusma in the future, up to now this upper limit was 1,100 initiated until the end of the mission”. Reference is made to a possible lack of availability of “close air support after the withdrawal of the French combat helicopters”.
It is still unclear who will take over the protection of the dangerous mission if France withdraws its troops as announced. Germany wants to partially replace the French in the medical service and also to help protect the airfield in Gao in northern Mali.
The EU Training Mission (EUTM) still has Mali in the title, but will focus on Niger’s special forces in the “Mission Gazelle”. In the future, a maximum of 300 German soldiers will be able to take part in the EU mission, i.e. at most half as many as before. The military training of the Malian army was stopped after reports of a massacre of around 300 people in central Mali in late March and early April. According to witnesses, Malian soldiers were also involved in the atrocities.
According to the Mali director of the aid organization “International Rescue Committee” (IRC), Franck Vannetelle, the crisis in the West African country cannot be resolved with military operations. Despite the years of presence of various international military operations, the security situation has deteriorated from year to year, he told the Evangelical Press Service (epd). More investment in development projects and humanitarian aid is needed to ensure peace.
Both mandates, for Minusma and for EUTM, are limited to the end of May 2023. 541 MPs in the Bundestag voted for the extension of Minusma, 103 against. 551 voted in favor of the changed EUTM mandate, 105 against.