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Goundam camp in Mali closed down by UN

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Goundam Camp
Goundam Camp

UN peacekeepers in Mali closed their Goundam camp and moved safely in a convoy of personnel and equipment to Timbuktu, a UN spokesman said on Thursday.

“The complex operation involved the withdrawal of personnel from the Ivorian military contingent, as well as UN police officers and a Bangladeshi Formed Police Unit,” said Stephane Dujarric, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. They are assigned to the mission, known as MINUSMA.

Dujarric said the peacekeepers had been helping to protect the local population, in the face of regular attacks with improvised explosive devices, in an area that has one of the highest levels of insecurity and the presence of extremist groups, particularly in the Goundam-Timbuktu axis.

The spokesman said the Goundam operation was safely carried out Wednesday after the Menaka camp was shut, and personnel and equipment were moved by convoy to Gao on Tuesday. However, one of those convoys was attacked, although there were no casualties. The attacked convoy carried personnel from the Niger military contingent and the Togolese Formed Police Unit.

He said MINUSMA is working in close consultation with the transition government of Mali and other stakeholders for the phased withdrawal by first moving personnel and equipment from remote camps to larger hubs so that smaller sites can be closed.

“Personnel and contingent-owned-equipment are gradually being repatriated to home countries, and UN-owned equipment is being disposed of in accordance with relevant UN financial regulations and rules, including through transfer to other UN peacekeeping operations,” Dujarric said.

In a note to correspondents Thursday, the spokesman’s office called MINUSMA’s withdrawal a UN system-wide priority.

“The mission has been implementing a plan to conduct a safe and orderly drawdown and withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2023, in close consultation with the transition government of Mali and in coordination with the troop and police contributing countries,” the note said. “A liquidation process will then begin from Jan. 1, 2024.”

The withdrawal operation began July 1, following a UN Security Council resolution mandating the drawdown. The transition government in Bamako requested the action.

The UN Security Council mandated MINUSMA in 2013 in the face of deadly jihadist attacks from the north. It turned out to be one of the most lethal peacekeeping missions. The United Nations counted 309 MINUSMA personnel killed up to June 30.

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