Nigeria to withdraw troops from UN mission in Mali (Full story)

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan has ordered the withdrawal of the country's troops from the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), two weeks after the mission was launched from a previous, African-led International force, according to Nigerian military sources.

The sources told PANA in Lagos Wednesday that the order was in protest against the way that Nigeria was treated by the UN in the appointment of the Force Commander for MINUSMA.

PANA reports that Maj.-Gen. Jean Bosco Kazura of Rwanda was appointed as the Force Commander of the UN Stabilization Mission by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, even when the country has no troops on the ground in the West African nation.

By contrast, Nigeria deployed a battalion of troops (900) to the Africa-led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA), which was transformed to a UN peacekeeping mission 1 July, in addition to helicopter gunships and fighter jets for combat operations.

The Nigeria military spokesman, Brig.-Gen. Chris Olukolade, neither denied nor confirm the order to withdraw the troops, merely saying: ''We shall follow all diplomatic and other procedures if and when we are pulling out.''

However, one of the military sources contacted by PANA said the country felt it was given a ''short shift'' over the appointment of the UN Force Commander, despite its role in efforts to stabilise the situation in Mali.

''The President has no choice but to order that the troops be withdrawn. The modalities for the withdrawal are now being worked out. But I can tell you that most of our troops will be out of the country (Mali) within the next week,'' the source said.

At a ceremony in Bamako, Mali, on 1 July marking the launch of MINUSMA, forces from AFISMA officially donned the blue berets that identify the operations of the UN.

“The establishment of MINUSMA is the result of a unanimous decision of the United Nations Security Council and has reaffirmed the engagement of the international community to accompany the people of Mali in their quest for stability, peace and prosperity,” Bert Koenders, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General, said at the ceremony.

AFISMA and French forces helped to liberate the northern part of Mali which was occupied for almost a year by radical Islamists.

The conflict, which began in early 2012 with a rebellion of ethnic Tuareg groups, displaced hundreds of thousands of people and prompted the Government to request assistance from France to halt the southward march of the extremists, as AFISMA gradually built strength.

In April, the Security Council approved the 12,600-strong MINUSMA to take over from the African-led force, authorizing the blue helmets “to use all necessary means” to carry out security-related stabilization tasks, protect civilians, UN staff and cultural artifacts and create the conditions for provision of humanitarian aid.
-0- PANA MON/SEG 17July2013

17 july 2013 18:51:51

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