The non-profit NGO Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) has released a new report that expresses concern over the lack of aerial surveillance equipment that is available to the United Nations’ MINUSMA peacekeeping mission in Mali.
In 2017, The Washington Post declared MINUSMA as being the UN’s deadliest mission due to the death of 118 peacekeepers between 2014 and 2017, the vastness of the territory, and the presence of several dangerous terrorist groups aligned with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to say nothing of inter-ethnic clashes.
France’s Operation Barkhane alone has deployed more than 5,000 trooops.
CIVIC argues that a greater number of surveillance helicopters, medical airlifts, and attack aircraft could help curtail jihadist activity, a sentiment shared by several Malian politicians representing the country’s central and northern regions, where most of the violence takes place. MINUSMA is not the only military operation active in the region: France’s Operation Barkhane alone has deployed more than 5,000 troops and several dozen aircraft, which are used for transport, surveillance, and air support.
The problem, as pointed out by a French officer interviewed by Jeune Afrique, is that effectively utilizing these tools requires troops on the ground to provide intelligence and guidance for aerial missions. France alone cannot fight Mali’s battles, nor does Mali want it to do so, meaning that more support is needed for MINUSMA to help it to fulfill its mission.
The United Nations is set to host a virtual conference next week, May 19, to encourage member states to increase their material support for MINUSMA.