UN takes over Mali mission —but France to stay
At a ceremony in Bamako July 1, UN troops formally took over the "peacekeeping" mission in Mali, with authority transferred from the African-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) to the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). But most of the soldiers actually remained the same, with AFISMA troops merely donning the blue beret of UN peacekeeping forces. In April, the Security Council approved the 12,600-strong MINUSMA to take over from the African-led force, with authorization "to use all necessary means" to carry out humanitarian and security-related missions and protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artifacts. The new mission begins as French forces continue their phased withdrawal. But France, Mali's former colonial master, is to keep up to 1,000 troops in the country. (Al Jazeera, UN News Centre, July 1)
Timbuktu, northern Mali's largest city and trade hub, remains insecure. Electricity is available only from 7 PM to midnight. There are no petrol stations; fuel is sold in mismatched bottles from roadside stalls. "Timbuktu is free again, but it is a town where there is no economy at all, a town where everything is gone, everything is lost, apart from hope," said Hallé Ousmane, the town's mayor. "80% of the civil servants are absent. Even if they were here, their offices are empty. There's no equipment, no computers, nothing—not even a chair. It's impossible to work." (The Guardian, July 1)
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