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Senegal should consider withdrawing from MINUSMA to prevent conflict with Mali

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After watching a forwarded video on Thursday, July 6, 2023, I am deeply concerned about the potential consequences if immediate action is not taken. The video, recorded in Mali by the Senegalese military contingent currently serving in the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), reveals a confrontational address by an unidentified Senegalese officer towards the Malian Armed Forces. This situation is perilous and demands remedial intervention without delay.

From a logical perspective, such grievances should be privately disclosed to the UN Secretary General or the Senegalese government for resolution, rather than being publicly declared and shared on social media.

Publicising these remarks as if preparing viewers for an imminent conflict between Senegalese MINUSMA forces and Malian troops is akin to charging a powder keg and waiting for a detonator. This approach leaves room for rogue elements, such as criminals or vagabonds disguising themselves as Malian troops, to attack the Senegalese soldiers. The commander’s assurance to his troops, urging them not to be intimidated and assuring payment of their salaries until December even if they don’t work another day, is equally irresponsible.

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In light of the fact that the Malian military government, since assuming power in August 2020, has expressed its ability to handle internal security problems and no longer desires foreign peacekeeping forces, it would be wise for Senegal to immediately withdraw all its forces from Mali. Senegalese troops are no longer welcomed as peacekeepers or peace enforcers, and it is essential to avoid unnecessary conflict with the Malians.

It is well-known that Mali has diverged from the economic and political policies prevalent in the former French African colonies, which remain under the semi-control of France since their independence. Mali has chosen to distance itself from French dependency and influence, aligning with the aspirations advocated by former Pan-Africanist pioneers such as Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere, Mali’s Modibo Keita, Guinea’s Saikou Touré, and Burkina Faso’s Thomas Sankara. Unfortunately, many of these iconic leaders were ruthlessly eliminated or saw their economies sabotaged and destroyed by foreign-sponsored soldiers and politicians. While the modern generation has become aware of these tactics and has raised its political consciousness, the presence of tacticians who may devise new strategies remains a concern.

Senegal’s opposition leader, Ousman Sonko, has been campaigning on a similar sentiment of breaking off the country’s neocolonial ties with France if elected president next year. Should this happen, France would inevitably lose some of the billions of dollars deposited annually in their central bank from their former colonies, as agreed upon during their struggle for independence over six decades ago.

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Considering these factors, the ongoing hostility between Senegalese MINUSMA forces and Malian troops within Mali may be a tactical prelude to a foreign-instigated armed conflict. Such a conflict would aim to destabilise both countries and potentially plunge them into another senseless and unwinnable war, rather than risk losing these lucrative nations. It is possible that I may be wrong or reading too much into what may seem like a trivial matter, but these concerns weigh heavily on my mind.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Retired  Lt Col Samsudeen Sarr

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