In the past four years 118 peacekeepers have been killed in Mali making the United Nations MINUSMA mission the deadliest on-going peace operations.
The context of this operation and why it came alive goes back to January 2012 when a Tuareg Rebellion started a war against the Malian government with the goal of attaining independence for the northern region of Mali known as the Azawad, led by the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) part off series of insurgencies which dates back to at least 1916.
The uprising was high jacked by Islamists radicals with al-Qaeda links and they went on and capture the three biggest cities in the north: Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal holding for nearly a year, until French troops intervened in 2013 and liberated them. Shortly after the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali was started, in short the third largest UN peacekeeping mission in operation in the world with more than 40 foreign armies participating in its efforts on the ground.
This is the third UN Peacekeeping operation I have witnessed; the first one being back in 1992 in Somalia, which did not achieve its mission and goals and arguably made the situation worst. Then the Congo DRC with the on going MONUC or the United Nations Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (they have changed the name since) which to this day has spent 8.74 billion USD and has had debatable results. I am now in the city of Gao in northern Mali where my movements are limited due to increased insecurity, to either being in a UN militarized secured army camp or on M.O.C Patrols (Mécanisme Opérationnel de Coordination) a combination of Malian Armed forces and members of the Platform and Coordination of Azawad Movements (ex Tuareg rebels) with Blue helmet United Nations soldiers in support. Everyone seems to be confused on how to run and coordinate the M.O.C, maybe because it started a couple of weeks ago, or because when being on patrol it becomes clear how the ex Tuareg rebels and the Malian forces are lacking in training and clearly something is wrong and not working, which makes me question the entire mission all together of coordinating 40 different armies and 13.000 soldiers on the ground, who all have different set skills of training and all speak different language.
A recent article from the Washington post reports that in a review conducted in 2015, a panel of United Nations appointed experts concluded that peacekeeping forces were not the appropriate tools for military counterterrorism operations in Mali.
On January 18th a suicide attack with a truck full of explosives was driven into a military compound in Gao were 76 men from Malian forces and armed group part of the peace process were killed.