Minusma tightens its grip on Mali

With more developed military capability and a reinforced mandate from the UN Security Council, Minusma will act more forcefully in the difficult situation in Mali.

Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre was scheduled to leave his two-year tenure as force commander of the UN mission in Mali this autumn. But now it looks like he will stay on as head a while longer. Photo: UN

“Minusma has proven to be one of the UN’s most difficult peacekeeping missions ever. When the mandate was renewed on 1 July, it came at a time when the situation in the country was worsening”, says Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre, Force Commander of Minusma.

“We still see a negative trend in terms of conflicts in the country. Terrorist activities demonstrating ever more ambitious attacks are just one part of this picture. Other aggravating factors are criminal activities, trafficking and ethnic conflicts”, he explains.

We have a strong mandate and we are authorised to use all necessary means to solve our task.

Dennis Gyllensporre

More mobility

That is one side of the situation. The other, which is about Minusma’s means to act, looks brighter. Lieutenant General Gyllensporre is the architect of a new Force Adaption Plan, which has been sanctioned in the new mandate by the UN Security Council. Although the implementation of the plan has been delayed due to the corona pandemic, it is already starting to come into effect. The basic theme of the plan is more pro-activity, more mobility and closer cooperation with the Malian Armed Forces (MAF).

“As regards security we are making great progress at the moment. Through our support to the MAF they have been able to re-establish their positions in the north, with units that have integrated combatants from groups that they previously fought in the civil war – i.e. signatories of the peace agreement”.

“We have also established units in Timbuktu and Gao”.

Dennis Gyllensporre on patrol in Menaka together with parts of the village council. Photo: Tommy Lundmark

This development does not only reinforce the security in the country, it is also an important symbol for the part of the population that has questioned Minusma and has failed to see how the UN mission has improved the situation in Mali.

“Thanks to the establishment of the government units, we are also creating opportunities to resurrect the civilian administration and enhance vital societal functions”, Lieutenant General Gyllensporre continues.

More difficult operations 

The new Minusma mandate, as of 1 July 2020, will change the 13 000 member peacekeeping force. This is in line with the plan designed by Dennis Gyllensporre. He explains that they will have to be able to “act with more confidence and respond more robustly”. In practice this means more rapid response units as well as helicopter units, intelligence units and special forces.

The aim is to create a higher degree of flexibility and capability to carry out “advanced tasks”.

“These are light units that can be rapidly deployed to various parts of the countries to handle more advanced operations”.

The Swedish artillery company will not only be a part of the new task force, it will be at the “forefront of it”.

Dennis Gyllensporre

The new units, i.a. the Swedish troop contribution in Gao, will be part of a so-called mobile task force, the size of a brigade. This is something entirely new in this type of peacekeeping mission, but, according to Lieutenant General Gyllensporre, they will be necessary in order to get a result in the current situation. Minusma has two strategic priorities. One is to support the implementation of the peace accord and assist in the Malian state’s efforts to protect the civilian population, the other is to decrease the level of ethnic violence and re-establish state presence in central Mali. Minusma is making great efforts to protect the people. This, he explains, is something that can be done in many different ways.

We have a strong mandate and we are expected to use force to solve our task if required. Not too much force, but also not too little.

The Swedish artillery company in Gao will not only be included in the new task force, but it will be at the “forefront of it”. Right from the start it will be involved in important duties and carry out advanced operations. As the task force is formed, the company will receive more support in the form of units for transport, intelligence and command and control.

These are also new resources that previously were lacking or weak, and they will help us carry out our mission with a high degree of professionalism and efficiency.

Resolve is required

Of course, more traditional, static activities, such as patrols and surveillance, are still necessary and will remain within Minusma, Lieutenant General Gyllensporre emphasises.

Dennis Gyllensporre heads a meeting with military representatives of the parties of the 2012 peace agreement. Photo: UN
Dennis Gyllensporre on patrol with Chad soldiers in Sector North. Photo: UN
Inspection of a Chad unit in Sector North. Photo: UN

Obviously he does not know what the new plan and the changed composition of the forces will entail. But he is already able to see “that many things are going in the right direction in Mali right now”, as for example the French operations in Barkhane and Takuba – in which a Swedish special force unit will participate as well.

Now, it is vital that the international community continues on this road and keeps its resolve.

Lieutenant General Dennis Gyllensporre was supposed to have concluded his two-year term as Force Commander this autumn, but now it looks like he will stay for a bit longer.

“Partly it is to complete and manage the difficult situation caused by the corona pandemic, but mostly because I want to fulfil the implementation of the new plan”.