The United Nations mission in Mali officially ended a 10-year deployment in the country on Monday, its spokesperson said, in a pullout ordered by Mali’s military leaders. The mission, known as MINUSMA, lowered the UN flag on its headquarters in the capital Bamako, its spokesperson Fatoumata Kaba told AFP. The symbolic ceremony marks the official end of the mission, she said, even though some elements of it are still there. A “liquidation phase” will take place after the withdrawal deadline of January 1, involving activities such as handing over remaining equipment to the authorities. Mali’s ruling junta, which seized power in 2020, in June demanded the departure of the mission, despite being in the grip of jihadist violence and other crises. The withdrawal of the UN stabilisation mission, in place since 2013, has ignited fears that fighting will intensify between troops and armed factions for territorial control. MINUSMA has for the past decade maintained around 15,000 soldiers and police in Mali. About 180 members have been killed in hostile circumstances, mostly blamed on armed groups linked to Al-Qaeda or the Islamic state group. As of Friday, more than 10,500 uniformed and civilian MINUSMA personnel had left Mali, of the around 13,800 present at the start of the withdrawal, the UN mission said on X, formerly Twitter. – Volatile north – Since being told to go, MINUSMA has so far left 13 positions in Mali, but has yet to depart from sites in Gao and Timbuktu in the north. Last week, the UN mission handed over the Mopti camp in the centre of Mali, one of the hotbeds of jihadist violence that has plagued the Sahel region in recent years. The Mopti camp most recently housed peacekeepers from Bangladesh and Togo, and had previously hosted Egyptian, Pakistani and Senegalese contingents. The pullout went smoothly — unlike recent withdrawals in Mali’s volatile north, which took place amid fears of a military escalation between the army and rebel groups, Kaba told AFP. Violence has swept the fragile and poor country, spilling over into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger and inflaming ethnic tensions along the way. Thousands of civilians and fighters have died and millions have been displaced. After seizing power, Mali’s junta ditched the country’s alliance with former colonial power France, preferring rapprochement with Moscow. That followed months of deteriorating relations. The junta has also distanced itself from Mali’s hitherto close European partners, notably France, and drawn closer to Niger and Burkina Faso — both now also run by military regimes with deepening ties to Russia after recent coups.