AFRICANGLOBE – China has offered to contribute peacekeepers to the new United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, where Arab terrorists controlled the country’s north until Malian, African and French troops launched an offensive in January to oust them, a UN official said on Thursday.
Andre-Michel Essoungou, a spokesman for the UN peacekeeping department, told the Associated Press that it “has received pledges and offers of contributions from a number of countries from around the world, including China”.
UN officials and diplomats, speaking on condition of anonymity because no announcement has been made, said China has offered to send a civil engineering company, comprising about 150 soldiers, and is likely to send as many as 600 peacekeepers.
In late April, the Security Council authorised a UN force comprising 11,200 military personnel and 1,440 international police to replace a 6,000-member African-led mission now in Mali on July 1. The deployment date could be delayed if security conditions deteriorate.
Mali was plunged into turmoil after a coup in March 2012 created a security vacuum. That allowed Tuareg invaders to attack and capture half of the north of the country. But months later, the rebels were kicked out by other Arab terrorists who imposed strict Sshariah (Arab Law) in the north, including amputations for theft.
France sent in warplanes, combat helicopters and 2,000 soldiers in January against the Arab terrorists, many linked to al-Qaeda, after they suddenly started moving south into government-controlled areas and captured key towns.
Backed by Chadian soldiers, French troops ousted the terrorist fighters from the major towns in northern Mali. But many went into hiding in the desert and continue to carry out suicide bombings, and Kidal, the capital of one of the three northern provinces which fell into terrorist hands, it is now still controlled by Tuareg invaders.
UN diplomats said the Security Council will meet on June 25 to discuss security in Mali and decide whether to give a green light to the deployment of the new UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali, known as MINUSMA, starting July 1 or delay it.
The main jobs of the new UN force in Mali will be to stabilise key population centres in the north, support the re-establishment of government authority throughout the country, and assist the transitional authorities in restoring constitutional order, democratic governance and national unity.
The UN’s Essoungou said the peacekeeping department is in permanent contact with member states and troop contributors to decide how best to use troops and police for the Mali mission. Diplomats said Bangladesh has also offered troops to the new force.
China’s offer of civil engineers for the Mali force is certain to be welcomed because engineering skills are in short supply.
Most of the 6,000 members of the African mission now in Mali are expected to become part of the UN force, but diplomats said none meet the required UN standards so a lot of work must be done to bring the troops’ equipment and training up to standard by July.
China started making significant deployments to UN peacekeeping operations in 1992 when it sent a contingent to Cambodia.
At the end of April, China had 1,872 peacekeepers in nine of the UN’s 15 peacekeeping operations – in Western Sahara, Congo, Darfur, Cyprus, Lebanon, Liberia, South Sudan, Ivory Coast and the UN Truce Supervision Organisation in the Mideast. Its contribution is much larger than that of the four other permanent members of the Security Council, the US, Russia, Britain and France.
The Security Council also authorised the UN mission to help promote reconciliation in Mali and support elections scheduled for July 28.
Diplomats said the new head of the UN mission, Albert Koenders, will arrive in Mali the second week in June and will be focusing on political reconciliation where initial efforts have stalled.
By: Edith M. Lederer