Mali Junta Expels UN Mission’s Human Rights Chief

Mali Junta Expels UN Mission’s Human Rights Chief
United Nations MUNISMA peacekeepers patrol the streets of Gao, eastern Mali, on Aug. 3, 2018. (Seyllou/AFP via Getty Images)
The Malian interim government on Sunday said the head of the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s human rights division had 48 hours to leave the country as he had been declared persona non grata.
In a statement, it said the decision to expel Guillaume Ngefa-Atondoko Andali was connected to what Mali’s ruling junta said was his allegedly biased choice of civil society witnesses for U.N. Security Council briefings on Mali, the most recent of which was held on Jan. 27.
The U.N. mission in Mali MINUSMA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Andali could not be reached for comment.
Mali’s ruling military regime have come under pressure for alleged human rights violations and abuses reportedly perpetrated by Malian armed forces in partnership with the Russian private military contractor Wagner Group in Mali.

On Jan. 31, U.N. experts called for an independent investigation into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity by both these forces.

The Malian regime, which took power in a 2021 military coup, on Saturday released a statement that pushed back against some of the U.N. allegations and emphasised the authorities’ commitment to respecting human rights in accordance with international and national law.
Mali has previously said Russian forces in the country are not mercenaries but trainers helping local troops with equipment bought from Russia.

Russia’s Lavrov Visits to Strengthen Defense Ties

Meanwhile, the junta’s foreign ministry said on Sunday that Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will pay a two-day visit to Mali this week, describing the visit as a reflection of a shared wish to strengthen defence and security ties.

Lavrov will arrive in Bamako on Monday. It is the first time a Russian foreign minister has officially visited the West African nation and reflects Moscow’s focus on extending its reach on the continent while it is at loggerheads with Western powers over its invasion of Ukraine.

Since coming to power in a 2020 coup, Mali’s junta has turned to Moscow even as it sparred with neighbours and Western nations over election delays and its decision to work with Russian mercenaries to combat an Islamist insurgency.

“This high-level visit is in line with the political choice made by the Transitional Government to expand and diversify strategic partnerships,” the Malian ministry said in a statement.

Lavrov’s visit shows “the firm will of the Malian and Russian heads of state to give new impetus to the relations of friendship and bilateral cooperation ... in priority areas, in particular defence and security,” the ministry said.

Mali is engaged in a fight against extremists linked to al Qaeda and ISIS who have waged a decade-long insurgency that has spread to neighbouring countries.

Last year, Russian President Vladimir Putin told Mali that Moscow was committed to strengthening cooperation to help root out the extremists. It has also promised shipments of fuel, fertiliser, and food worth around $100 million.

Mali’s growing friendliness with Russia has coincided with a breakdown in relations with France, the former colonial power. Last year, the rift led Paris to withdraw all its troops that had been battling extremists since 2013.

Lavrov is currently in Baghdad for talks on improving bilateral ties and energy cooperation.