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Peacekeeping force for unsettled Mali gets unanimous UN vote

Resolution 2100 has French troops replaced by blue helmets and at least half the UN force will be from Africa. Al Qaeda-linked militants are still fighting in Mali's northern mountains. 

By Peter TintiCorrespondent / April 25, 2013

This March 8 file photo provided by the French Army Communications Audiovisual Office (ECPAD) shows French soldiers patrolling the Mettatai region in northern Mali.

Arnaud Roine, ECPAD/AP

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The United Nations Security Council today unanimously approved the creation of a 12,600-strong peacekeeping force for Mali.

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The pending arrival of blue helmets to the country is a sign that France, its African allies, and the broader international community are eager for the next phase of an intervention that began in January as a limited air campaign against Islamist rebels, but quickly escalated into a full-scale ground war.  

Resolution 2100, proposed by France, calls for a force that would consist of 11,200 troops as well as 1,440 police to stabilize a country rocked by political instability and war over the last year.

Though the French-led intervention initially succeeded in driving the rebels from the towns and cities once under their control, serious questions remain regarding the extent to which northern Mali has actually been secured.

In the wake of several attacks - including suicide bombings - on Mali’s northern cities, both outside analysts and Malians wonder if the Islamist rebels have been defeated.

Meanwhile, Tuareg separatists have seized the opportunity to regain control of a large swath of territory, and have said they will not disarm in advance of negotiations with the Malian government. 

The lack of an existing peace agreement between rival factions, combined with continued insecurity has prompted many to wonder what role peacekeepers can realistically play in a conflict that continues to simmer.

The new mission voted on today will operate under the French acronym of MINUSMA; the force will incorporate the approximately 6,000 African troops already on the ground in Mali as part of the mission’s joint UN-Africa predecessor, called AFSIMA.

Mali, once considered an example of African democracy, descended into chaos last year when a loose coalition of separatist rebels and Islamist militants took control of the northern two-thirds of the country in the wake of a coup d’etat in the southern capital of Bamako.

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