The U.N. Security Council approved the creation of a 12,640-strong peacekeeping force that will be deployed to Mali in efforts to maintain gains made by French troops who intervened in the government’s fight against militant Islamist groups.
The African-led force (named the U.N. Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Force (MINUSMA)) will be tasked with keeping several northern towns stable after Islamic militants and Tuareg separatists were rooted out by French and Malian military forces earlier this year.
“We know it is going to be a fairly volatile environment,” said Hervé Ladsous, the head of peacekeeping for the United Nations, after the unanimous 15-to-0 vote in the Council. Ladsous added that French troops would be prepared to intervene again if violence spins out of control.
While France has promised its unwavering support to Mali, the Security Council appealed to other U.N. Member States on Thursday to help support the mission by providing troops and police.
Earlier this week, France's National Assembly voted to extend the country's military intervention in Mali, although the number of French troops on the ground (nearly 4,000) is expected to decrease dramatically over the next few months.
Despite the French enthusiasm for the mission, not everyone is on board. Canadian media reports that the government has already decided against lending troops to the force.
"Canada is not considering a military presence in Mali," an official from Canada’s Defence Minister Peter MacKay’s office told Canadian news outlet iPolitics. "That [a peacekeeping mission] would involve military personnel."
U.N. peacekeeping missions have not always had the best reputation when it comes to human rights and respecting local and international laws when relating to local populations. In 2005, reports surfaced of widespread rape and sexual abuse of young girls by U.N. peacekeepers stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
In announcing the Mali mission, Ladsous assured that human rights concerns will be at the forefront of the mission’s purpose.
"Human rights is one of the core elements of the mandate. We will do some vetting of the personnel and we will increase their training in human rights and international humanitarian law," Ladsous said. "We want our people to be impeccable."
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(Photo: AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)