By BABA AHMED
BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s government has ordered the U.N. peacekeeping mission’s human rights chief to leave the country by Tuesday, declaring him persona non grata in the latest sign of tensions between Mali’s leaders and the international community.
A government statement Sunday criticized Guillaume Ngefa-Atondoko Andali for choosing someone who represented Malian civil society at a U.N. Security Council briefing. The communique accused the human rights director of “destabilizing and subversive actions.”
The U.N. peacekeeping mission known as MINUSMA said in a statement Monday that it “deeply regrets this decision.”
“MINUSMA reaffirms its commitment to continue to work impartially to implement its mandate to promote and protect human rights, which is an important component of Mali’s stabilization efforts,” the statement said.
Mali’s government has taken issue in particular with the choice of Aminata Dicko to appear at the U.N. hearing late last month. Dicko, the vice president of a human rights NGO called Kisal, denounced alleged killings by the Malian army and the shadowy Russian military contractor the Wagner Group.
Andali’s expulsion announced Sunday comes as Mali’s government faces growing questions about its human rights record and its relationship with the Wagner mercenaries.
Last week independent human rights experts working with the U.N. called for an investigation of possible abuses, war crimes, and crimes against humanity committed by Mali’s government forces and Wagner mercenaries.
“We are particularly worried by credible reports that over the course of several days in late March 2022, Malian armed forces accompanied by military personnel believed to belong to the Wagner Group, executed several hundred people, who had been rounded up in Moura, a village in central Mali,” the experts said in a statement.
Mali has been battling an Islamic insurgency since 2012 and has seen its international partners dwindle since a 2020 military coup. Last year France withdrew its forces after nine years of helping to fight Islamic extremists in its former colony amid rising tensions with the country’s military leaders.
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