The U.N. Security Council voted Wednesday to maintain the U.N. peacekeeping mission in turmoil-wracked Mali, while condemning the West African nation's military rulers for using mercenaries that commit human rights and humanitarian violations.
The council also expressed "grave concern" at the deteriorating political and security situation in the West African nation.
Russia and China abstained on the French-drafted resolution that extends the mandate of the mission until June 30, 2023, with its current ceiling of 13,289 military personnel and 1,920 international police.
Mali has been in turmoil since a 2012 uprising prompted mutinous soldiers to overthrow the president. The power vacuum that resulted ultimately led to an Islamic insurgency and a French-led war that ousted the jihadists from power in 2013.
But insurgents remain active and extremist groups affiliated with al-Qaida and the Islamic State group have moved from the arid north to more populated central Mali since 2015, stoking animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region.
Mali´s current ruling junta, which seized power in August 2020, has grown closer to Russia as Moscow has looked to build alliances and gain sway in Africa.
The junta has hired mercenaries from Russia´s Wagner Group, which has been accused by the European Union and human rights groups of violating human rights and international humanitarian law. The Kremlin denies any connection to the company, but Western analysts call it a tool of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
After Wednesday´s vote, France´s U.N. ambassador, Nicolas De Riviere, said violations of human rights and humanitarian law by terrorist groups as well as Malian armed forces accompanied by members of the Wagner Group "must stop."
Warning that insecurity in Mali is rising, he said the U.N. mission must be given access to areas where alleged violations are committed to fulfill its mandate and publish quarterly human rights reports as the resolution demands. He said that "those responsible for violations must be brought to justice."
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