Press Review CW 27/2023: Groundbreaking?
Press Review 30 June 2023 to 7 July 2023

UN peacekeeping mission in Mali to be terminated

Last Friday, the United Nations Security Council in New York voted unanimously to end the mandate of the longstanding UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA in Mali with immediate effect. The cessation of all MINUSMA operations, the transfer of its tasks and the secured withdrawal of personnel will begin July 1, according to Resolution 2690, with full troop withdrawal to take place by the end of the year. With this decision, the UN Security Council is meeting the demands of Mali’s Foreign Minister Diop, who had called for the immediate withdrawal of MINUSMA three weeks ago before the UN Security Council following the publication of the UN Human Rights Commission’s investigative report on a massacre of hundreds of civilians by Mali’s army and the Russian mercenary force Wagner. Tensions between MINUSMA and the Malian transitional government have been mounting for months, with the latter accusing the UN mission of a lack of success and of exceeding its mandate, which is focused on peacekeeping rather than investigating human rights violations. The intensification of cooperation with Russian forces such as the Wagner Group as well as the complication of the MINUSMA mission, e.g., through flight bans, also repeatedly formed points of contention. Côte d’Ivoire, Germany, the United Kingdom and Sweden have now announced the withdrawal of their troops participating in MINUSMA. Germany had already paved the way for the withdrawal by agreeing to a phase-out mandate until May 31, 2024. In a roll call vote yesterday, the German Bundestag rejected an amendment to the mandate by a large majority; although the withdrawal would have to be carried out sooner than originally planned, the mandate adopted in May nevertheless offered the necessary conditions for this, according to the majority votes in parliament. Germany had already started the repatriation of equipment in June, but must now carry it out more quickly and, above all, at the same time as all other MINUSMA partners, which poses logistical challenges. In addition to weapons and ammunition, protected vehicles, telecommunications equipment and computers must also be transported – according to estimates from the Ministry of Defense, this involves around 1,500 container equivalents that must leave the country. Leaving behind or destroying materiel should only be considered in the event of a massive deterioration in the security situation, he said. However, the end of the Mali mission does not mean the end of Germany’s involvement in the region. The Bundeswehr will continue to participate in the EU partnership mission EUMPM in the neighboring state of Niger (Press Review CW 17/2022). The mandate runs until May 31, 2024. The Malian transitional government welcomed the UN Security Council’s decision, even though Foreign Minister Diop had originally called for a complete withdrawal within three months, while international reactions were more mixed. On the one hand, there is recognition for the work done, but also concerns about the fragile security situation and the long-term effects of the withdrawal. UN Secretary-General António Guterres praised the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali and the dedication of its personnel on the ground, and called on the transitional government to ensure the orderly withdrawal of personnel and assets. At the same time, he cautioned that the 2015 peace agreement must be respected and security in the country ensured. On Twitter, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock called the abrupt end of MINUSMA bitter news for Malian civilians, to whom the mission had provided protection and hope. With the end of the MINUSMA stabilization mission, which has been stationed in Mali since 2013, around 13,000 Blue Helmet soldiers are leaving the West African country. Experts are now warning of a security vacuum that the Malian armed forces would not be able to close even with Russian support – according to estimates, there are currently around 1,000 Wagner mercenaries in Mali. MINUSMA is considered the second-largest employer in the country; as a result of the withdrawal, numerous local MINUSMA forces will lose their jobs within a very short time, offering enormous recruitment potential for jihadist groups. The peaceful transition to a civilian government also remains uncertain. On June 18, after a referendum with a large majority but low voter turnout, a constitutional amendment was approved that strengthens the position of power of the interim president Assimi Goïta and expands his powers.

Infra for Africa Forum in Togo

From Monday to Tuesday, the first edition of the Infra for Africa Forum took place in Lomé, Togo under the theme “Bankable, Scalable, Replicable”. The forum was organised by Africa50, an investment platform established in 2013 by African governments and the African Development Bank (AfDB) to mobilise finance for infrastructure projects in Africa, which has already invested more than US$6.6 billion in infrastructure over the past six years. More than 50 high-level speakers attended the event, including Faure Gnassingbé, President of the Republic of Togo, Dr Akinwumi Adesina, President of the AfDB and Chairman of Africa50, and Dr Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Director General of the World Trade Organisation. In his opening speech, President Gnassingbé stressed that Togo’s priority is to create a stable and transparent economic environment to attract foreign capital and economic operators. He described the development of creditworthy infrastructure projects and the participation of the private sector as the basis for the country’s development as essential for Togo’s future. Meanwhile, Dr Akinwumi Adesina reiterated the AfDB’s commitment to Togo in the areas of transport, agriculture and private sector development. During the forum, Togo and Africa50 signed a joint Asset Recycling agreement that will allow the Togolese government to transfer existing infrastructure assets to the private sector and invest the proceeds generated in other public projects. In addition, various African and global institutional investors signed subscription agreements and letters of intent to participate in the new Africa50 Infrastructure Acceleration Fund with a total volume of US$ 500 million. The AfDB pledged to contribute 20 million US dollars to the fund. The fund is Africa50’s first private infrastructure platform and comprises 17 African shareholders, including sovereign wealth funds, development finance institutions, banks, pension funds, asset managers and pension funds, as well as two international institutional investors. Furthermore, Africa50 and the International Solar Alliance, a cooperation platform for promoting the use of solar energy technologies, signed a memorandum of understanding to support and finance solar projects. Among other things, the SolarX Startup Challenge is to be launched to identify and support innovative solar projects. The general objective of the cooperation is to increase the use of solar energy in Africa in order to improve access to energy and promote energy security. Development and investment opportunities in the areas of transport, logistics, power grids and technology were also discussed.

In other news

The final of the Africa Cup U-23 (CAN U23) football tournament will see hosts Morocco and defending champions Egypt clash on Saturday. On Tuesday, Morocco beat Mali 4-3 on penalties and Egypt beat Guinea 1-0 in the semi-finals. Both teams had already started the tournament as favourites. By reaching the final, Egypt and Morocco also automatically qualified for the 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris. For the Egyptian team it is already the 13th  Olympic qualification, for the Moroccan team the seventh. The third ticket for Africa at the Olympic Games goes to the third-placed of the CAN U23. The match for third place between Mali and Guinea will take place this Friday.

Special news

Senegal’s President Macky Sall announced on Monday that he will not run for another term in the February 2024 presidential elections. With this announcement, he dispelled months of speculation about his candidacy for a controversial third term, which had further exacerbated domestic unrest in the West African state in recent months (Press Review week 11/2023, Press Review week 23/2023). His decision was positively received both nationally and internationally.

For information

On Wednesday, a new episode “What companies in Africa do better” of the podcast 55 Countries – Africa. Differentiated. Constructive. This time the guests are the journalist Sophia Bogner and the journalist Paul Herzberg, who jointly wrote the book “Jenseits von Europa – Was afrikanische Unternehmerinnen und Unternehmer besser machen” (Beyond Europe – What African Entrepreneurs Do Better), as well as Dr. Akuma Saningong, founder of the consulting firm Kamerun4AfrikaClub (KAC).

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